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The Changing Generational Values

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Examining Workplace Values from Baby Boomers to Generation Z

Today’s workforce consists of 4 generations: (ordered from oldest to youngest) Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z. These generations were raised in different social and political atmospheres and therefore, correspond to different childhood upbringings and familial environments, which beget different values, wants, and needs in adulthood.  

 Early and late psychological researchers have proven this to be true: the environment in which an individual is brought up in, namely the things that they lack or are deprived of in their childhood, strongly influences their value development throughout adulthood.   

But how exactly does this tie into the ever-changing workplace status quo and where do employers fall in? We can generalize these individual upbringings that influence different adulthood values to the changing social, political, and technological atmospheres surrounding each generation that underlie (and influence) different generational workplace values.   

To cultivate a workplace environment where all employees can thrive, employers must be wary of these values, as well the nature of the social, political, and technological atmospheres that generated them.   

the generational differences essay

Baby Boomers

(Born 1946 to 1964) 

The Baby Boomers, or “Boomers,” were born and raised in post-WWII (post-World War II) American society. This period saw younger marriages, higher childbirth rates, and, resultingly, greater resource scarcity. Being raised in a society with limited resources, limited jobs, and limited schooling inspired a generation of competitors: individuals who operated with a “ work as hard as you can, then work even harder the next time ” mindset.  

According to liveaboutdotcom, some common workplace and worker values/mindsets associated with the Boomer generation are work-centric and workaholic, independent and self-assertive, goal-oriented and career-focused, competitive, and self-actualized. Together, these values and mindsets suggest a generation that prioritizes efficiency and efficacy in the workplace but has little regard for a work-life balance, with work tending to be the center of their lives. 

Generation X

(Born 1965 to 1980) 

Generation X, or Gen Xers, is the generation that follows the Baby Boomers. Knowing that the preceding generation was characterized by a work-centric lifestyle, it’s no surprise that the generation that followed almost entirely rejected this belief. Gen Xers were raised in a time characterized by early technological developments (analog to digital), transformative socio-political change, and minimal adult supervision.  

Together, this fostered a generation with hyper-independence (with often both parents always working) and hyper-flexibility (from having to constantly adapt to the rapidly evolving status-quo) that, contrasting Boomers, prioritizes a work-life balance: operating under a “ work hard, play hard” mentality. According to indeed, some common workplace values to Gen Xers are independence and self-sufficiency, healthy work-life balancing, flexibility and informality, and technological creativity. 

Generation Y

(Born 1981 to 1996) 

Generation Y, or more commonly known as Millennials, follow Generation X and precede Generation Z. Millennials are the most populated generation and compose the majority of today’s workforce, (approximately 35% according to U.S (United States). Bureau of Labor Statistics) which make their upbringing and workplace values especially of interest to employers. As the name suggests, most Millennials were raised at the turn of the millennium, serving as the last generation to see life before and after the complete digital takeover. In addition to witnessing extreme technological growth and development that spawned unprecedented levels of communication, Millennials were old enough to understand 9/11 and its aftermath and grew up seeing the importance and benefit to the work-life balance that Gen Xers prioritized.  

These childhood environments resulted in a highly progressive, empathetic generation that was the first to integrate moral values into the workplace: striving to only work in environments that aligned with their core socio-political values, even at the cost of a pay-cut. The Millennial workplace mindset is best described as “ work hard, play harder, but try to only work where you can see yourself play” . According to Haillo and indeed, some common workplace values essential to the average Millennial worker are personalized and frequent internal communication, diversity and inclusion, flexibility + remote options, teamwork, professional growth, and professional development (emphasis on learning new skills.)  

Generation Z

(Born 1997 to 2010) 

Lastly, but surely not least, is Generation Z, (or Gen Z’ers,) the incoming generation of today’s workforce. Currently, Gen Z accounts for 30% of the world’s population and is projected to compose about 30% of the workforce population in less than 5 years. As the first generation to truly exist without knowledge of what it’s like to grow up without digital technology, it’s no surprise that there are many qualities unique to Gen Z that clearly set them apart from the past three generations we’ve discussed.  

Growing up with emergence and proliferation of social media apps and the world wide web, Gen Z has been named “the first global generation,” with access to everything ( and everyone ) at just one click of a button. Pair this with the global economic and health upheavals caused by the global financial crisis that spanned 2007 to 2009, the global distress caused by the climate emergency, and the economic fallout from COVID-19 that transitioned the world online, we would expect this lack of stability would produce a generation of similar values and beliefs to those of the Boomers. However, what Gen Z had that Boomers did not was the ability to communicate openly and honestly about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences with tens, hundreds, thousands, even millions of other people experiencing similar (or worse) upheavals. Gen Z is the first generation to have access to every perspective; the first generation where almost no traumatic or unpleasant experience was isolated , unrelatable , or unique–  the first generation of global community.  

According to Zurich and McKinsey & Company , Gen Z is the generation of truth, exploration, and identity (or lack thereof). Gen Z is driven by an insatiable hunger for underlying truths and seeks freedom from any confining labels that limits any exploration of these truths. Resultantly, retaining Gen Z in the workplace presents even greater difficulty than retaining Millennials. Taking the previous generation’s prioritization of working at companies with similar socio-political values a step further, Gen Z has no problem leaving a company or business that contrasts with their beliefs. Moreover, Gen Z is the generation with the least regard for salary, often placing workplace values over competitive pay. For this generation, these values include meaningful work, diverse and i nclusive company culture, mental health prioritization, open and honest communication, stability and balance, professional growth and development, collaboration, autonomy, and flexibility (emphasis on remote work options). 

In Conclusion…  

Workplace values are the most important guiding principles for how, when, and why employees work. Over time, these values have become increasingly progressive in the workforce, transforming from work-centric ideologies to person-first mindsets. Where Baby Boomers were content with devoting their lives to the work they found, Millennials and Gen Z seek purposeful devotions that serve both themselves and the communities they care about. For employers, understanding how the changing times result in generations with different workplace and worker values will not only help to better understand your employees but will also help to ensure the workplace environment you cultivate attracts, retains, and empowers all of your people.  


Francis, Tracy, and Fernanda Hoefel.  ‘True Gen’: Generation Z and its implications for companies.  ,  

Herrity, Jennifer.  4 Common Characteristics of Generation X Professionals.  , 2022, 

Indeed Editorial Team.  10 Common Characteristics of the Millennial Generation.  , 2022, 

Kane, Sally.  Baby Boomers in the Workplace: How Their Generational Traits and Characteristics Affect the Workplace.  , 2019, 

Kasser, Tim, Richard Koestner, and Natasha Lekes. “Early Family Experiences and Adult Values: A 26-Year, Prospective Longitudinal Study  .”  Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin , vol. 28, no. 6, 2022,, doi: 

Martic, Kristina.  Millennials in the Workplace: 11 Ways to Attract and Keep Them.  , 2022,  

Smith, Robert.  Generation X: History and Characteristics.  , 2021, 

U.S. BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.  Employment status of the civilian noninstitutional population by age, sex, and race.  , 2022, 

Zurich Editors.  How will Gen Z change the workplace?  , 2022, 

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It’s Time to Stop Talking About “Generations”

By Louis Menand

The discovery that you can make money marketing merchandise to teen-agers dates from the early nineteen-forties, which is also when the term “youth culture” first appeared in print. There was a reason that those things happened when they did: high school. Back in 1910, most young people worked; only fourteen per cent of fourteen- to seventeen-year-olds were still in school. In 1940, though, that proportion was seventy-three per cent. A social space had opened up between dependency and adulthood, and a new demographic was born: “youth.”

The rate of high-school attendance kept growing. By 1955, eighty-four per cent of high-school-age Americans were in school. (The figure for Western Europe was sixteen per cent.) Then, between 1956 and 1969, college enrollment in the United States more than doubled, and “youth” grew from a four-year demographic to an eight-year one. By 1969, it made sense that everyone was talking about the styles and values and tastes of young people: almost half the population was under twenty-five.

Today, a little less than a third of the population is under twenty-five, but youth remains a big consumer base for social-media platforms, streaming services, computer games, music, fashion, smartphones, apps, and all kinds of other goods, from motorized skateboards to eco-friendly water bottles. To keep this market churning, and to give the consulting industry something to sell to firms trying to understand (i.e., increase the productivity of) their younger workers, we have invented a concept that allows “youth culture” to be redefined periodically. This is the concept of the generation.

The term is borrowed from human reproductive biology. In a kinship structure, parents and their siblings constitute “the older generation”; offspring and their cousins are “the younger generation.” The time it takes, in our species, for the younger generation to become the older generation is traditionally said to be around thirty years. (For the fruit fly, it’s ten days.) That is how the term is used in the Hebrew Bible, and Herodotus said that a century could be thought of as the equivalent of three generations.

Around 1800, the term got transplanted from the family to society. The new idea was that people born within a given period, usually thirty years, belong to a single generation. There is no sound basis in biology or anything else for this claim, but it gave European scientists and intellectuals a way to make sense of something they were obsessed with, social and cultural change. What causes change? Can we predict it? Can we prevent it? Maybe the reason societies change is that people change, every thirty years.

Before 1945, most people who theorized about generations were talking about literary and artistic styles and intellectual trends—a shift from Romanticism to realism, for example, or from liberalism to conservatism. The sociologist Karl Mannheim, in an influential essay published in 1928, used the term “generation units” to refer to writers, artists, and political figures who self-consciously adopt new ways of doing things. Mannheim was not interested in trends within the broader population. He assumed that the culture of what he called “peasant communities” does not change.

Nineteenth-century generational theory took two forms. For some thinkers, generational change was the cause of social and historical change. New generations bring to the world new ways of thinking and doing, and weed out beliefs and practices that have grown obsolete. This keeps society rejuvenated. Generations are the pulse of history. Other writers thought that generations were different from one another because their members carried the imprint of the historical events they lived through. The reason we have generations is that we have change, not the other way around.

There are traces of both the pulse hypothesis and the imprint hypothesis in the way we talk about generations today. We tend to assume that there is a rhythm to social and cultural history that maps onto generational cohorts, such that each cohort is shaped by, or bears the imprint of, major historical events—Vietnam, 9/11, COVID . But we also think that young people develop their own culture, their own tastes and values, and that this new culture displaces the culture of the generation that preceded theirs.

Today, the time span of a generational cohort is usually taken to be around fifteen years (even though the median age of first-time mothers in the U.S. is now twenty-six and of first-time fathers thirty-one). People born within that period are supposed to carry a basket of characteristics that differentiate them from people born earlier or later.

This supposition requires leaps of faith. For one thing, there is no empirical basis for claiming that differences within a generation are smaller than differences between generations. (Do you have less in common with your parents than with people you have never met who happen to have been born a few years before or after you?) The theory also seems to require that a person born in 1965, the first year of Generation X, must have different values, tastes, and life experiences from a person born in 1964, the last year of the baby-boom generation (1946-64). And that someone born in the last birth year of Gen X, 1980, has more in common with someone born in 1965 or 1970 than with someone born in 1981 or 1990.

Everyone realizes that precision dating of this kind is silly, but although we know that chronological boundaries can blur a bit, we still imagine generational differences to be bright-line distinctions. People talk as though there were a unique DNA for Gen X—what in the nineteenth century was called a generational “entelechy”—even though the difference between a baby boomer and a Gen X-er is about as meaningful as the difference between a Leo and a Virgo.

You could say the same things about decades, of course. A year is, like a biological generation, a measurable thing, the time it takes the Earth to orbit the sun. But there is nothing in nature that corresponds to a decade—or a century, or a millennium. Those are terms of convenience, determined by the fact that we have ten fingers.

Yet we happily generalize about “the fifties” and “the sixties” as having dramatically distinct, well, entelechies. Decade-thinking is deeply embedded. For most of us, “She’s a seventies person” carries a lot more specific information than “She’s Gen X.” By this light, generations are just a novel way of slicing up the space-time continuum, no more arbitrary, and possibly a little less, than decades and centuries. The question, therefore, is not “Are generations real?” The question is “Are they a helpful way to understand anything?”

Bobby Duffy, the author of “The Generation Myth” (Basic), says yes, but they’re not as helpful as people think. Duffy is a social scientist at King’s College London. His argument is that generations are just one of three factors that explain changes in attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. The others are historical events and “life-cycle effects,” that is, how people change as they age. His book illustrates, with a somewhat overwhelming array of graphs and statistics, how events and aging interact with birth cohort to explain differences in racial attitudes, happiness, suicide rates, political affiliations—you name it, for he thinks that his three factors explain everything.

TITLE The Four Musicians Of The Apocalypse

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Duffy’s over-all finding is that people in different age groups are much more alike than all the talk about generations suggests, and one reason for all that talk, he thinks, is the consulting industry. He says that, in 2015, American firms spent some seventy million dollars on generational consulting (which doesn’t seem that much, actually). “What generational differences exist in the workplace?” he asks. His answer: “Virtually none.”

Duffy is good at using data to take apart many familiar generational characterizations. There is no evidence, he says, of a “loneliness epidemic” among young people, or of a rise in the rate of suicide. The falling off in sexual activity in the United States and the U.K. is population-wide, not just among the young.

He says that attitudes about gender in the United States correlate more closely with political party than with age, and that, in Europe, anyway, there are no big age divides in the recognition of climate change. There is “just about no evidence,” he says, that Generation Z (1997-2012, encompassing today’s college students) is more ethically motivated than other generations. When it comes to consumer boycotts and the like, “ ‘cancel culture’ seems to be more of a middle-age thing.” He worries that generational stereotypes—such as the characterization of Gen Z-ers as woke snowflakes—are promoted in order to fuel the culture wars.

The woke-snowflake stereotype is the target of “Gen Z, Explained” (Chicago), a heartfelt defense of the values and beliefs of contemporary college students. The book has four authors, Roberta Katz, Sarah Ogilvie, Jane Shaw, and Linda Woodhead—an anthropologist, a linguist, a historian, and a sociologist—and presents itself as a social-scientific study, including a “methodological appendix.” But it resembles what might be called journalistic ethnography: the portrayal of social types by means of interviews and anecdotes.

The authors adopt a key tenet of the pulse hypothesis. They see Gen Z-ers as agents of change, a generation that has created a youth culture that can transform society. (The fact that when they finished researching their book, in 2019, roughly half of Gen Z was under sixteen does not trouble them, just as the fact that at the time of Woodstock, in 1969, more than half the baby-boom generation was under thirteen doesn’t prevent people from making generalizations about the baby boomers.)

Their book is based on hour-long interviews with a hundred and twenty students at three colleges, two in California (Stanford and Foothill College, a well-regarded community college) and one in the U.K. (Lancaster, a selective research university). The authors inform us that the interviewees were chosen “by word of mouth and personal networking,” which sounds a lot like self-selection. It is, in any event (as they unapologetically acknowledge), hardly a randomized sample.

The authors tell us that the interviews were conducted entirely by student research assistants, which means that, unless the research assistants simply read questions off a list, there was no control over the depth or the direction of the interviews. There were also some focus groups, in which students talked about their lives with, mostly, their friends, an exercise performed in an echo chamber. Journalists, or popular ethnographers, would at least have met and observed their subjects. It’s mystifying why the authors felt a need to distance themselves in this way, given how selective their sample was to begin with. We are left with quotations detached from context. Self-reporting is taken at face value.

The authors supplemented the student interviews with a lexical glossary designed to pick out words and memes heavily used by young people, and with two surveys, designed by one of the authors (Woodhead) and conducted by YouGov, an Internet polling company, of eighteen- to twenty-five-year-olds in the United States and the U.K.

Where there is an awkward discrepancy between the survey results and what the college students say in the interviews, the authors attempt to explain it away. The YouGov surveys found that ninety-one per cent of all persons aged eighteen to twenty-five, American and British, identify as male or female, and only four per cent as gender fluid or nonbinary. (Five per cent declined to answer.) This does not match the impression created by the interviews, which suggest that there should be many more fluid and nonbinary young people out there, so the authors say that we don’t really know what the survey respondents meant by “male” and “female.” Well, then, maybe they should have been asked.

The authors attribute none of the characteristics they identify as Gen Z to the imprint of historical events—with a single exception: the rise of the World Wide Web. Gen Z is the first “born digital” generation. This fact has often been used to stereotype young people as screen-time addicts, captives of their smartphones, obsessed with how they appear on social media, and so on. The Internet is their “culture.” They are trapped in the Web. The authors of “Gen Z, Explained” emphatically reject this line of critique. They assure us that Gen Z-ers “understand both the potential and the downside of technology” and possess “critical awareness about the technology that shapes their lives.”

For the college students who were interviewed (although not, evidently, for the people who were surveyed), a big part of Gen Z culture revolves around identity. As the authors put it, “self-labeling has become an imperative that is impossible to escape.” This might seem to suggest a certain degree of self-absorption, but the authors assure us that these young people “are self-identified and self-reliant but markedly not self-centered, egotistical, or selfish.”

“Lily” is offered to illustrate the ethical richness of this new concern. It seems that Lily has a friend who is always late to meet with her: “She explained that while she of course wanted to honor and respect his unique identity, choices, and lifestyle—including his habitual tardiness—she was also frustrated by how that conflicted with her sense that he was then not respecting her identity and preference for timeliness.” The authors do not find this amusing.

The book’s big claim is that Gen Z-ers “may well be the heralds of new attitudes and expectations about how individuals and institutions can change for the better.” They have come up with new ways of working (collaborative), new forms of identity (fluid and intersectional), new concepts of community (diverse, inclusive, non-hierarchical).

Methodology aside, there is much that is refreshing here. There is no reason to assume that younger people are more likely to be passive victims of technology than older people (that assumption is classic old person’s bias), and it makes sense that, having grown up doing everything on a computer, Gen Z-ers have a fuller understanding of the digital universe than analog dinosaurs do. The dinosaurs can say, “You don’t know what you’re missing,” but Gen Z-ers can say, “You don’t understand what you’re getting.”

The claim that addiction to their devices is the cause of a rise in mental disorders among teen-agers is a lot like the old complaint that listening to rock and roll turns kids into animals. The authors cite a recent study (not their own) that concludes that the association between poor mental health and eating potatoes is greater than the association with technology use. We’re all in our own fishbowls. We should hesitate before we pass judgment on what life is like in the fishbowls of others.

The major problem with “Gen Z, Explained” is not so much the authors’ fawning tone, or their admiration for the students’ concerns—“environmental degradation, equality, violence, and injustice”—even though they are the same concerns that almost everyone in their social class has, regardless of age. The problem is the “heralds of a new dawn” stuff.

“A crisis looms for all unless we can find ways to change,” they warn. “Gen Zers have ideas of the type of world they would like to bring into being. By listening carefully to what they are saying, we can appreciate the lessons they have to teach us: be real, know who you are, be responsible for your own well-being, support your friends, open up institutions to the talents of the many, not the few, embrace diversity, make the world kinder, live by your values.”

I believe we have been here before, Captain. Fifty-one years ago, The New Yorker ran a thirty-nine-thousand-word piece that began:

There is a revolution under way . . . It is now spreading with amazing rapidity, and already our laws, institutions, and social structure are changing in consequence. Its ultimate creation could be a higher reason, a more human community, and a new and liberated individual. This is the revolution of the new generation.

The author was a forty-two-year-old Yale Law School professor named Charles Reich, and the piece was an excerpt from his book “The Greening of America,” which, when it came out, later that year, went to No. 1 on the Times best-seller list.

Reich had been in San Francisco in 1967, during the so-called Summer of Love, and was amazed and excited by the flower-power wing of the counterculture—the bell-bottom pants (about which he waxes ecstatic in the book), the marijuana and the psychedelic drugs, the music, the peace-and-love life style, everything.

He became convinced that the only way to cure the ills of American life was to follow the young people. “The new generation has shown the way to the one method of change that will work in today’s post-industrial society: revolution by consciousness,” he wrote. “This means a new way of living, almost a new man. This is what the new generation has been searching for, and what it has started to achieve.”

So how did that work out? The trouble, of course, was that Reich was basing his observations and predictions on, to use Mannheim’s term, a generation unit—a tiny number of people who were hyperconscious of their choices and values and saw themselves as being in revolt against the bad thinking and failed practices of previous generations. The folks who showed up for the Summer of Love were not a representative sample of sixties youth.

Most young people in the sixties did not practice free love, take drugs, or protest the war in Vietnam. In a poll taken in 1967, when people were asked whether couples should wait to have sex until they were married, sixty-three per cent of those in their twenties said yes, virtually the same as in the general population. In 1969, when people aged twenty-one to twenty-nine were asked whether they had ever used marijuana, eighty-eight per cent said no. When the same group was asked whether the United States should withdraw immediately from Vietnam, three-quarters said no, about the same as in the general population.

Most young people in the sixties were not even notably liberal. When people who attended college from 1966 to 1968 were asked which candidate they preferred in the 1968 Presidential election, fifty-three per cent said Richard Nixon or George Wallace. Among those who attended college from 1962 to 1965, fifty-seven per cent preferred Nixon or Wallace, which matched the results in the general election.

The authors of “Gen Z, Explained” are making the same erroneous extrapolation. They are generalizing on the basis of a very small group of privileged people, born within five or six years of one another, who inhabit insular communities of the like-minded. It’s fine to try to find out what these people think. Just don’t call them a generation.

Buffalo walk one behind the other in a straight line.

Most of the millions of Gen Z-ers may be quite different from the scrupulously ethical, community-minded young people in the book. Duffy cites a survey, conducted in 2019 by a market-research firm, in which people were asked to name the characteristics of baby boomers, Gen X-ers, millennials (1981-96), and Gen Z-ers. The top five characteristics assigned to Gen Z were: tech-savvy, materialistic, selfish, lazy, and arrogant. The lowest-ranked characteristic was ethical. When Gen Z-ers were asked to describe their own generation, they came up with an almost identical list. Most people born after 1996 apparently don’t think quite as well of themselves as the college students in “Gen Z, Explained” do.

In any case, “explaining” people by asking them what they think and then repeating their answers is not sociology. Contemporary college students did not invent new ways of thinking about identity and community. Those were already rooted in the institutional culture of higher education. From Day One, college students are instructed about the importance of diversity, inclusion, honesty, collaboration—all the virtuous things that the authors of “Gen Z, Explained” attribute to the new generation. Students can say (and some do say) to their teachers and their institutions, “You’re not living up to those values.” But the values are shared values.

And they were in place long before Gen Z entered college. Take “intersectionality,” which the students in “Gen Z, Explained” use as a way of refining traditional categories of identity. That term has been around for more than thirty years. It was coined (as the authors note) in 1989, by the law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw. And Crenshaw was born in 1959. She’s a boomer.

“Diversity,” as an institutional priority, dates back even farther. It played a prominent role in the affirmative-action case of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, in 1978, which opened the constitutional door to race-conscious admissions. That was three “generations” ago. Since then, almost every selective college has worked to achieve a diverse student body and boasts about it when it succeeds. College students think of themselves and their peers in terms of identity because of how the institution thinks of them.

People who went to college in an earlier era may find this emphasis a distraction from students’ education. Why should they be constantly forced to think about their own demographic profiles and their differences from other students? But look at American politics—look at world politics—over the past five years. Aren’t identity and difference kind of important things to understand?

And who creates “youth culture,” anyway? Older people. Youth has agency in the sense that it can choose to listen to the music or wear the clothing or march in the demonstrations or not. And there are certainly ground-up products (bell-bottoms, actually). Generally, though, youth has the same degree of agency that I have when buying a car. I can choose the model I want, but I do not make the cars.

Failure to recognize the way the fabric is woven leads to skewed social history. The so-called Silent Generation is a particularly outrageous example. That term has come to describe Americans who went to high school and college in the nineteen-fifties, partly because it sets up a convenient contrast to the baby-boom generation that followed. Those boomers, we think—they were not silent! In fact, they mostly were.

The term “Silent Generation” was coined in 1951, in an article in Time —and so was not intended to characterize the decade. “Today’s generation is ready to conform,” the article concluded. Time defined the Silent Generation as people aged eighteen to twenty-eight—that is, those who entered the workforce mostly in the nineteen-forties. Though the birth dates of Time’s Silent Generation were 1923 to 1933, the term somehow migrated to later dates, and it is now used for the generation born between 1928 and 1945.

So who were these silent conformists? Gloria Steinem, Muhammad Ali, Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, Noam Chomsky, Philip Roth, Susan Sontag, Martin Luther King, Jr., Billie Jean King, Jesse Jackson, Joan Baez, Berry Gordy, Amiri Baraka, Ken Kesey, Huey Newton, Jerry Garcia, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Andy Warhol . . . Sorry, am I boring you?

It was people like these, along with even older folks, like Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, and Pauli Murray, who were active in the culture and the politics of the nineteen-sixties. Apart from a few musicians, it is hard to name a single major figure in that decade who was a baby boomer. But the boomers, most of whom were too young then even to know what was going on, get the credit (or, just as unfairly, the blame).

Mannheim thought that the great danger in generational analysis was the elision of class as a factor in determining beliefs, attitudes, and experiences. Today, we would add race, gender, immigration status, and any number of other “preconditions.” A woman born to an immigrant family in San Antonio in 1947 had very different life chances from a white man born in San Francisco that year. Yet the baby-boom prototype is a white male college student wearing striped bell-bottoms and a peace button, just as the Gen Z prototype is a female high-school student with spending money and an Instagram account.

For some reason, Duffy, too, adopts the conventional names and dates of the postwar generations (all of which originated in popular culture). He offers no rationale for this, and it slightly obscures one of his best points, which is that the most formative period for many people happens not in their school years but once they leave school and enter the workforce. That is when they confront life-determining economic and social circumstances, and where factors like their race, their gender, and their parents’ wealth make an especially pronounced difference to their chances.

Studies have consistently indicated that people do not become more conservative as they age. As Duffy shows, however, some people find entry into adulthood delayed by economic circumstances. This tends to differentiate their responses to survey questions about things like expectations. Eventually, he says, everyone catches up. In other words, if you are basing your characterization of a generation on what people say when they are young, you are doing astrology. You are ascribing to birth dates what is really the result of changing conditions.

Take the boomers: when those who were born between 1946 and 1952 entered the workforce, the economy was surging. When those who were born between 1953 and 1964 entered it, the economy was a dumpster fire. It took longer for younger boomers to start a career or buy a house. People in that kind of situation are therefore likely to register in surveys as “materialistic.” But it’s not the Zeitgeist that’s making them that way. It’s just the business cycle. ♦

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The Evidence Base for Generational Differences: Where Do We Go from Here?

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Emma Parry, Peter Urwin, The Evidence Base for Generational Differences: Where Do We Go from Here?, Work, Aging and Retirement , Volume 3, Issue 2, 1 April 2017, Pages 140–148,

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Interest in generational diversity has exploded since the turn of the 21st century. While many researchers are supportive of the concept of generations, a growing number have questioned the validity of the idea that people are different according to when they were born. In this article, we review recent work in the area and build on our own previous studies; which have been highly critical of extant empirical work. Many studies utilize cross-sectional data that do not allow investigation of generational difference; and even when appropriate data are used, the apriori assumption of 4 or 5 generational categories invalidates research findings. We present selected results from analyses we have undertaken to overcome these issues, and identify a more robust direction for the research. Essentially, the theoretical foundation for generational research has some validity, but the existence of generational differences has not been validly tested. We suggest that researchers must investigate whether any cohort-specific differences in attitudes are apparent, and where, if at all, these can be “cut” to identify distinct “structural breaks” between generations. Only by building a body of knowledge, across different social, and economic phenomena will we obtain a true picture of where generational differences lie.

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The Generation Gap Revisited: Generational Differences in Mental Health, Maladaptive Coping Behaviors, and Pandemic-Related Concerns During the Initial COVID-19 Pandemic

Kaitlin grelle.

Department of Psychology, Texas State University, 601 University Drive, San Marcos, TX 78666 USA

Neha Shrestha

Megan ximenes, jessica perrotte, millie cordaro, rebecca g. deason, krista howard.

The purpose of this study was to assess differences in mental health symptoms, pandemic-related concerns, and maladaptive coping behaviors among adults in the United States across generations during the initial period of the COVID-19 pandemic. A social media campaign was used to recruit 2696 U.S. individuals to participate in an online survey in April 2020, assessing various validated psychosocial factors, including major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), perceived stress, loneliness, quality of life, and fatigue, along with pandemic-specific concerns and changes in alcohol use and substance use. Participants were grouped based on generation status (Gen Z, Millennial, Gen X, and Baby Boomer) and statistical comparisons were conducted based on demographics, psychosocial factors, pandemic-related concerns, and substance use. During the initial period of the COVID-19 pandemic, the younger cohorts (Gen Z and Millennials) rated significantly worse on mental health indices, including major depression, GAD, perceived stress, loneliness, quality of life, and fatigue. Further, the participants in the Gen Z and Millennial generational groups exhibited greater increase in maladaptive coping with substance use, specifically alcohol use and increased use of sleep aids. Our results indicate that during the initial period of the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the Gen Z and Millennial generational cohorts were considered a psychologically vulnerable population due to their mental health and maladaptive coping behaviors. Improving access to mental health resources during early stages of a pandemic is an emerging public health concern.


In March 2020, the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic due to an outbreak of the COVID-19 virus (CDC, 2020). To reduce community transmission, the United States (U.S.) enacted broad community mitigation strategies, including nationwide stay-at-home orders for all non-essential workers (Howard et al., 2021 ; Salari et al., 2020 ; Xiong et al., 2020 ). These measures confined millions of individuals to their homes, while creating high-risk work environments for essential workers (U.S. Department of Labor, 2020 ). Social and psychological consequences associated with these mitigation efforts and the pandemic event itself are critical public health concerns (Bu et al., 2020 ; Hossain et al., 2020 ). The psychological distress created by these complex, multi-faceted disruptions quickly eroded mental health and well-being (Park et al., 2021 ), but these disruptions may not impact all age groups equally as a result of several factors (e.g., risk for disease, existing support systems, financial security, history-graded cohort influences, etc.).

Pandemics and epidemics have been documented as traumatic stressor events that evoke fear, confusion, and uncertainty regarding susceptibility, transmission, and treatment, while contributing to the onset of psychopathology and mental health disorders (Brooks et al., 2020 ; Wang et al., 2021a , 2021b ). Tuberculosis, HIV, and Polio endemics have been linked to acute psychological distress, including symptoms of depression and anxiety (Anjum et al., 2020 ; Bruno & Frick, 1991 ). During the COVID-19 pandemic, disruptions to day-to-day living negatively impacted individuals’ routines, social support networks, and coping resources (WHO, 2020). In addition, some individuals experienced social isolation and loneliness, which are both empirically linked to psychological distress (Ahmed et al., 2020 ; Ames-Guerrero et al., 2021 ; Anjum et al., 2020 ; Cosic et al., 2020; Moghanibashi-Mansourieh, 2020 ). Furthermore, economic disruptions magnified psychological distress and anxiety (Turchioe et al., 2021 ). In the U.S., more than 40 million people filed for unemployment as businesses closed while others grappled with layoffs or furloughs (Turchioe et al., 2021 ; U.S. Department of Labor, 2020 ). Collectively, these risk factors played a key role as traumatic stressors in developing or exacerbating maladaptive coping behaviors, psychopathology and/or mental health disorders among the U.S. population (Hossain et al., 2020 ).

Throughout the pandemic, symptoms of psychological dysfunction including increased anxiety, depression, and stress have been reported globally (Hossain et al., 2020 ; Huang & Zhao, 2020 ; Salari et al.,; 2020 ; Wang et al., 2021a , 2021b ; Xiong et al., 2020 ). At the onset of the pandemic in the U.S., Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) both demonstrated significant increases in prevalence rates among the general population (Cordaro et al., 2021 ; Uwadiale et al., 2021 ). Given that older adults are at higher risk for severe COVID-19 infection (e.g., hospitalization or intensive care admission; CDC, 2021), there has been a growing concern regarding this population’s psychological vulnerability to mental health symptoms and disorders (Anjum et al., 2020 , El-Gabalaway et al., 2021; Turchioe et al., 2021 ). Research studies have previously implicated chronic health issues as significant stressors affecting mental health in older adults (Luo et al., 2021), and it is important to understand the implications for mental health across different age groups and cohorts during the early stages of the pandemic.

These cascading societal catastrophes related to the pandemic, in addition to the pandemic as a large-scale traumatic event itself, set the stage for collective trauma (Hirschberger, 2018 ). Yet, research shows that not all generational groups will experience mental health impacts from traumatic stress proportionately (Buffel et al., 2021 ). The lifespan developmental perspective has been applied to research on stress and coping processes (Baltes, 1987 ; Baltes et al., 2006 ; Spiro, 2007 ). This perspective describes how an individuals’ ability to effectively cope with stress is a lifelong process with developmental progression occurring for older adults belonging to the baby boomer cohort, compared to younger age groups belonging to younger cohorts. For example, Baby Boomers grew up in a post-World War II era and managed through wars, political upheaval, natural disasters, and other infectious epidemics (Lind et al., 2021 ). Therefore, older adults have a lifetime of experience with crises and resilience (Wettstein et al., 2022 ). Several recent studies have suggested that older adults have been more successful at navigating COVID-19 pandemic mental health concerns and maladaptive coping behaviors than younger age groups (Brotto et al, 2021 ; Bruine de Bruin, 2021 ). Older adults’ resilience and ability to cope with stressful situations is evidenced in several studies finding increased positive and decreased negative affect in older adults compared with younger adults (Fields et al., 2022 ; Klaiber et al., 2021 ). Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, older adults showed less reactivity overall to stressors than younger adults (Klaiber et al., 2021 ), similar to pre-pandemic findings suggesting older adults are more likely to use coping strategies to manage stressful situations (Charles et al. 2010). Although this work was based on age-related effects, it has been supported by generational cohort comparisons indicating that members of the Boomer generation had better mental health outcomes than Millennial and Gen X groups (Turchioe et al., 2021 ). It follows then, that although older adults have a higher risk for severe illness, yet, based on developmental processes, younger generational groups will be at higher risk for psychopathology exacerbated by the pandemic (Kiss et al., 2022 ). Recent research demonstrated that those in middle adulthood, characterized as a time of career and caregiving responsibilities, experienced increased symptoms of depression and sleep issues during the pandemic (Brown & Arigo, 2022 ). Recently, the U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory on the pandemic-related mental health crisis unfolding for youth including emerging adults already challenged by foundational developmental tasks (Arnett, 2000 ; Office of the Surgeon General, 2021). In sum, research is showing disproportionate impacts to mental health, psychopathology, and coping for differing age groups and cohorts, yet few studies have made generational comparisons across groups.

The broad aim of this study is to describe self-reported changes in mental health symptoms and maladaptive substance use behaviors across different generations in the U.S. [i.e., Generation Z (Gen Z): born 1997–2012; Millennials: born 1981–1996; Generation X (Gen X): born 1965–1980; and Baby Boomers: born 1946–1964; PEW Research Center, 2019 ] during the initial period of the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on the limited literature on generational differences during the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the historical knowledge of Baby Boomers’ experiences, it is hypothesized that the older generational groups will have less psychosocial distress and maladaptive coping compared to the younger generations. Identifying these differences will improve understanding of how individuals from different generational groups responded during the initial part of the pandemic, which can inform public health initiatives in future events.

Participants and Procedure

Participants were recruited through a nationwide Facebook Sponsored Ads campaign between April 14 and April 22, 2020. The advertising posts were placed on random newsfeeds of participants ages 18 and older living in the U.S. During this recruitment period, 4406 individuals clicked on the recruitment post linked to the survey and 2739 of those individuals provided consent and completed the survey in Qualtrics. For the present study, 2696 participants provided their age and were included in the analyses. Participation was voluntary. The mean age of participants in the sample was 47.8 years (SD = 12.9) and 87.8% of the sample were female, and 89.9% were non-Hispanic white. The data were weighted to the total U.S. population based on the 2018 Census Bureau population estimates by age, sex, and race/ethnicity (U.S. Census Bureau, 2018 ). All participants provided written informed consent to participate in this study. The Institutional Review Board at Texas State University approved the protocol for this study (#7221).

All participants were classified into the generational groups based on their current ages at the time of data collection (PEW Research Center, 2019 ). Of the 2696 participants included in the present study, those in the Gen Z group were ages 18–23 ( n  = 86; 3.2%; 8.8% with population weights applied), the Millennial group were ages 24–39 years ( n  = 693; 25.7%; 25.9% with population weights applied), the Gen X group were ages 40–55 years (1086; 40.3%; 31.4% with population weights applied), and the Baby Boomer group were 56–74 years ( n  = 831; 30.8%; 33.9% with population weights applied).


Participants reported age, gender identity, race/ethnicity, marital status, children, medical insurance, employment, and education level.

Psychosocial Measures

The perceived stress scale (pss).

The PSS (Cohen et al., 1983 ) is a 10-item measure using a 5-point Likert scale assessing general life stressors experienced in the past four weeks with responses ranging from Never to Very Often . An example item is, “How often have you found that you could not cope with all the things you had to do?” Summed scored range between 0 and 40 with higher scores indicating greater perceived stress ( M  = 1.94, SD = 0.37). The α reliability achieved for this sample was 0.90.

The Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ)

The PHQ (Kroenke et al., 2010 ; Spitzer et al., 1994 ) is a well-validated measure with multiple subscales that provide provisional diagnoses for major depression (PHQ-9), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD-7), and somatization disorder, SD (PHQ-15). The scoring of these subscales included specific algorithms rather than cut-off scores to determine whether the participants met the criteria for the provisional diagnosis (see Spitzer et al., 1999 for scoring information). For this sample, the α reliability for the PHQ-9 summed score was 0.90 ( M  = 1.02, SD = 0.45) and the α reliability for the GAD-7 summed score was 0.84 ( M  = 0.98, SD = 0.20).

The UCLA Loneliness Scale

The UCLA Loneliness Scale (Russell et al., 1978 ) is a 20-item measure that assesses subjective feelings of social isolation and loneliness using a 4-point Likert scale from I often feel this way to I never feel this way , with higher summed scores indicating more loneliness ( M  = 2.25, SD = 0.27). An example item from this scale is “How often do you feel left out?” The α reliability achieved for this sample was 0.94.

The World Health Organizational Quality of Life (WHOQOL-BREF)

The WHOQOL Group (1998) developed the WHOQOL-BREF scale which assesses an individual’s perception of their quality of life during the past 2 weeks based on four distinct areas: physical health, psychological health, social relationships, and environment. This scale uses 26 items, and the raw scores are transformed to a scale ranging from 0 to 100 with the higher scores indicative of better quality of life (see WHOQOL, INT, 1996 for scoring information). For this sample, the α reliability of the unadjusted composite score is 0.91 ( M  = 3.50, SD = 0.39). For the subscales of the WHOQOL-BREF, the α reliabilities are 0.75 for physical health ( M  = 3.76, SD = 0.45), 0.85 for psychological health ( M  = 3.23, SD = 0.14), 0.73 for social relationships ( M  = 3.29; SD = 0.37), and 0.63 for environmental health ( M  = 3.57, SD = 0.31).

The Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI)

The IRI (Davis, 1983 ) is a well-established measure of empathy. For this study, two subscales of the IRI were included: Personal Distress and Empathic Concern, both containing seven items that used a 5-point Likert scale with responses ranging from Does not describe me well to Describes me very well such that higher summed scores on each scale indicate greater levels of empathy. The Personal Distress subscale measures apprehension and anxiety in stressed settings ( M  = 4.17, SD = 0.28). The Empathic Concern subscale assesses feelings of sympathy and concern for others considered less fortunate ( M  = 2.39, SD = 0.59). The α reliability achieved for this sample for the Personal Distress subscale was 0.76, and for the Empathic Concern subscale was 0.84.

The Checklist of Individual Strength (CIS)

The CIS (Vercoulen et al., 1999 ) is a 20-item subjective measure of general fatigue. This measure uses a 7-point Likert scale ranging from Yes, that is true of me to No, that is not true of me for each of the items. The CIS contains four subscales: fatigue, motivation, physical activity, and concentration. An example item from the concentration subscale is, “Thinking requires effort.” Higher summed scores on each subscale of the CIS indicate greater levels of fatigue. For this sample, the total summed score ( M  = 4.27, SD = 0.57) achieved an α reliability of 0.94. The fatigue subscale ( M  = 4.62, SD = 0.61) achieved an α reliability of 0.90. The motivation subscale ( M  = 3.97, SD = 0.46) achieved an α reliability of 0.75. The physical activity subscale ( M  = 4.03, SD = 0.20) achieved an α reliability of 0.87. And the concentration subscale ( M  = 4.08, SD = 0.54) achieved an α reliability of 0.89.

Pandemic-Specific Questionnaires (Created Specifically for This Study)

Concerns about pandemic.

There were 21 specific concerns about the pandemic developed by the senior author in conjunction with a larger pandemic study. Participants were asked to indicate the degree of their concern from 0 to 10 with higher scores indicating greater concern using a visual analog sliding scale. Examples of concerns listed include: Access to Food; Acquiring COVID (self/household); and Case Counts of COVID Reported. A principal components analysis with a varimax rotation was conducted to reduce the 21 items to 6 components with eigenvalues greater than one, accounting for 68.7% of the cumulative variance. The six components generated included concerns about access to basic needs, infection rates and statistics regarding COVID-19, employment and finances, childcare and schooling of underaged children, caring for or unable to visit elderly parents, and the government’s response to the pandemic. The α reliability achieved for each concern factor in this sample are as follows: Access to Basic Needs, a  = .823 ( M  = 4.85, SD = 2.92); COVID (infections and statistics), a  = .878 ( M  = 6.69, SD = 2.94); Employment and Finances, a  = .810 ( M  = 4.63, SD = 3.52); Children, a  = .885 ( M  = 2.64, SD = 3.39); Elderly Parents, a  = .741 ( M  = 4.99, SD = 3.80); and Government Response, a  = .872 ( M  = 7.11, SD = 2.47).

Behavioral and Substance Use Changes

Participants were also asked to respond to a series of questions regarding their relative change in behaviors during the initial pandemic stay-at-home recommendations. The general behaviors assessed included sleep, accessing news, alcohol use, marijuana use, anti-anxiety medication use, and sleep aid use. The participants were asked to respond if their behaviors had increased, decreased, or stayed the same from before the pandemic compared to the initial onset of the pandemic (April, 2020).

Statistical Analysis

The data were weighted to the U.S. population using four age strata, two sex strata, and four race/ethnicity strata based on the 2018 U.S. Census Bureau population estimates (2020). Cluster values were assigned to each participant based on the first two digits of the zip code provided which allowed for geographic clustering. Complex Sample Designs were used for analyses adjusting for weighting, strata, and clustering, and linear regression was conducted for comparisons of continuous variables and χ 2 tests of Independence were conducted for categorical comparisons. For analyses of continuous variables, means and standard errors are provided, and for analyses of categorical variables, percentages with 95% confidence intervals are provided. Pairwise deletion was used for random missing data. Post hoc comparisons are conducted by comparing the point estimates to the corresponding confidence intervals. Effect size comparisons are reported as Contingency Coefficients (CC) for categorical comparisons and f 2 for comparisons of continuous variables. Significance levels were set at p  < .05 for all comparisons. All analyses were conducted using SPSS version 27 (IBM, Chicago, IL).

The demographic comparisons between the four generational groups including post hoc comparisons and effect sizes are presented in Table ​ Table1. 1 . No significant differences were identified between the comparison groups when assessing gender, race/ethnicity, and education levels (all p  > .05). A higher proportion of the Gen X group were married compared with Millennial and Gen Z groups ( p  < .001). Gen Xers had a higher proportion of individuals who were divorced/separated/widowed than Millennials ( p  < .001) and a lower proportion of individuals with this marital status compared to Baby Boomers ( p  < .001). As expected, when comparing generations, there were significant differences in households with children under the age of 18, such that the there was a significantly smaller proportion of Baby Boomers households with young children ( p  < .001) and Gen X households had the highest proportion of households with underage children ( p  < .001). Likewise, employment status differed significantly between the generations such that a higher proportion of Baby Boomers were more likely to be retired and a higher proportion of Gen Zers were more likely to be students. When assessing differences in employment status, Millennials reported the highest proportion of unemployment attributed to the pandemic and the highest proportion of unemployment that was not attributed to the pandemic ( p  < .001).

Demographic comparisons

Comparisons with p  < .05 are indicated with bold font and effect sizes are provided

Values reported are column percentages and 95% confidence intervals using population weights

Post hoc comparisons use alphabetical superscripts to denote significant group differences. The superscripts for each parameter indicate the specific groups that differed significantly from the designated group, with a = Gen Z, b = Millennial, c = Gen X, and d = Baby Boomer

Psychosocial factors were also compared between the four generational groups and are shown in detail, including post hoc comparisons and effect sizes, in Table ​ Table2. 2 . Overall, individuals in the Gen Z and Millennial groups self-reported more negative outcomes for perceived stress, loneliness, the personal distress empathy subscale of the IRI, and all of the subscales of the CIS, which measure fatigue, motivation, physical activity, and concentration (all p s < .05). Most notably, the provisional rates of diagnosis for MDD for individuals in the Gen Z (44.5%) and Millennial (35.8%) groups were significantly greater than participants in the Gen X (19.2%) and Baby Boomer (11.8%) groups, which also exceed the 12-month general prevalence estimate of 10.4% prior to the pandemic (Hasin et al., 2018 ). Likewise, the 12-month general prevalence rates of GAD in the U.S. ranges between 2 and 4% (Kessler et al., 2005 ; Robichaud et al., 2019 ), and the rates of provisional diagnoses of GAD for individuals in the Gen Z (30.9%), Millennial (27.9%), and Gen X (17.2%) groups were significantly higher than those in the Baby Boomer group (8.1%).

Psychosocial measures

Reported as mean (standard error) or column percentages with 95% confidence interval using population weights

Perceived Stress Scale: higher scores = more stress

UCLA Loneliness Scale: higher scores = more lonely

WHOQOL: higher scores = better quality of life

Empathy (IRI) Empathic Concern subscale: higher scores = more empathy for others

Empathy (IRI) Personal Distress: higher scores = more distress when others are distressed

Checklist of Individual Strength: higher scores indicate worse outcomes on each subscale

When comparing the generations based on their concerns about the pandemic, significant differences were identified in three areas (see Table ​ Table3). 3 ). Millennials and Gen Xers expressed significantly higher rates of concern regarding Employment and Finances ( p  = .044), issues regarding Children ( p  = .042), and issues regarding Elderly Parents ( p  = .046) compared to the Gen Z and Baby Boomer groups. Overall, the highest levels of concerns from all of the generation groups were identified in the following two components: COVID (infected/statistics) and Government’s Response.

Concerns about pandemic

Reported as mean (standard error) using population weights

Lastly, when comparing generational groups, there were significant differences based on behavioral and substance use changes during the initial part of the pandemic (see Table ​ Table4). 4 ). When evaluating changes in sleep behaviors, 40–50% of the individuals in the Gen X, Millennial, and Gen Z groups reported decreases in sleep during the initial pandemic ( p  = .010). There was also a notable significant increase in alcohol use for individuals in the Millennial (52.2%) and Gen Z (48.5%) groups, compared to the Baby Boomer group (19.3%), with no difference between the Gen X (38.7%) and Baby Boomers (19.3%), for those who indicated prior use of alcohol ( p  = .029). For those who reported sleep aid use, there was a significant difference in the increase in use, with Gen Z (63.9%) and Millennials (62.9%) reporting higher increases during the pandemic compared to the increases reported by the Gen X (47.7%) and Baby Boomer (25.1%) groups ( p  = .041).

Changes in behaviors and substance use during initial pandemic protocols

Reported as Column percentages and 95% Confidence Intervals provided using population weights

This study examined how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted general stress levels, mental health, and maladaptive coping, including substance use, among the U.S. population across four distinct generational groups. Following a lifespan developmental perspective on stress and coping, the results of the study affirm previous research on the developmental progression of stress, coping and impacts to mental health (Aldwin, 2011 ). Given that the study used a cross-sectional research design, it is important to note that interpretation of results potentially reflects both age-related and cohort-based influences which will be further addressed in the discussion. Despite a possible combination of these two developmental influences, interpretation of the results remains noteworthy as more generational groups encounter future traumatic stressor events.

Our results showed that the younger generations (i.e., Millennials and Gen Zers) reported a greater increase in mental health symptoms when compared to Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, even though older adults are considered a higher “at-risk” group for health complications and/or hospitalization for COVID-19 infection. Specifically, we found that Millennials and Gen Zers have higher rates of MDD and GAD. Gen Xers and Baby Boomer groups showed little increase in rates of these disorders. These results are consistent with studies that have found that psychopathology symptoms were generally higher among younger generations compared to older generations (Brotto et al., 2021 ; Bruine de Bruin, 2021 ; El-Gabalaway et al., 2021; Twenge et al., 2019 ). Prior work using an age–period–cohort analysis found that Millennial and Gen Z birth cohort groups have increased rates of psychological distress and suicide-related outcomes compared with Gen X and Boomer groups independent of overall age effects (Twenge et al., 2019 ). While similar effects were found in our study, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health may be due to a combination of age and cohort effects. In general, younger adults experience higher levels of stress and poorer mental health (i.e., anxiety and depressive symptoms), compared to older adults, such as those in the Baby Boomer group and older (American Psychological Association, 2018; Twenge et al., 2019 ). Alternatively, while older adults (i.e., 65 and older) are dealing with diminishing health and social networks, they characteristically have fewer competing responsibilities and experience more emotional well-being compared to younger adults (Momtaz et al., 2014 ). In addition, older adults may be less vulnerable to psychopathology symptoms due to normalization of negative events, and resiliency through lived experiences and accumulated wisdom (Birditt et al., 2021 ; Jeon & Dunkle, 2009 ). In fact, recent research shows that older adults have been more resilient with managing COVID-19 pandemic mental health concerns and maladaptive coping behaviors than younger age groups (Birditt et al., 2021 ). Therefore, it is noteworthy regarding the differential impact of traumatic stressor events and potential for collective trauma for differing age groups. As with previous research on stress and coping processes across the lifespan, the older the generational group the more positive outcome for mental health and less susceptibility to psychopathology and maladaptive coping.

Moreover, additional self-reported measures on pandemic concerns revealed similar generational variations. Pandemic concerns included access to basic needs, contracting viral infection, employment and finances, childcare, schooling, caring for aging parents or the inability to visit and monitor aging parents, and the government's response to the pandemic. While several of these concerns align more closely to the life circumstances of specific generational groups (i.e., having children at home), it is important to examine the intensity of the concerns to better understand how the pandemic specifically affected the individuals in different stages of life. Overall, Millennials and Gen Xers had significantly higher concerns about employment and finances, children (childcare and schooling), and caring for or visiting aging parents when compared to Gen Z and Baby Boomer generational groups.

Alcohol consumption varied among generational groups, and the findings indicated that alcohol use increased among Gen Z and Millennial participants relative to Baby Boomers. This is notable since Gen Z, the younger generational cohort known for choosing to abstain from alcohol, showed decreased rates of alcohol use compared to other birth cohorts before the pandemic (Twenge & Park, 2019 ). While it is difficult to pinpoint if the pattern of change is due age or cohort influences, given the traumatic stressor events associated with the pandemic, the Gen Z cohort group likely used alcohol as an additional coping strategy. Our results could also reflect previous research that demonstrates a developmental trajectory with older adults characteristically having matured out of risk-taking behaviors with age compared to younger adults (Josef et al., 2016 ). Studies among younger adults identified maladaptive coping as a mediator between alcohol misuse and stress (Metzger et al., 2017 ; Wang et al., 2021a , 2021b ). Consistent with a stress-coping framework, younger generational groups may use alcohol as a maladaptive coping strategy. The Gen Z birth cohort has been identified as characteristically having poorer mental health compared to other generational groups, which has been attributed to socio-historical cohort effects (American Psychological Association, 2018; Twenge et al., 2019 ). Considering the pandemic as a traumatic event created additional contextual, psychological stressors contributing to engagement in risky behaviors including drinking as a coping mechanism. Research shows that most individuals replace maladaptive coping strategies with adaptive and problem-focused coping strategies in middle and older adulthood age groups (Al-Bahrani et al., 2013 ; Diehl et al., 1996 ). Such patterns of change in coping may be due to traumatic stressors associated with the COVID-19 pandemic (Brotto et al., 2021 ). Future research studies utilizing cross-sequential designs to examine associations between generational cohort groups with a focus on psychopathology and mental health vary as a function of maladaptive coping would be an important next step.

Last, while sleep problems were a common concern prior to the pandemic, there were significant issues related to sleep disturbance at the onset of the pandemic. The Gen X, Gen Z, and Millennial groups experienced poor quality or insufficient sleep which can impact health and well-being (Clement-Carbonell et al., 2021 ). There is evidence that the Gen Z group was prone to decreased sleep duration before the pandemic, potentially due to increased time devoted to electronic media use (Twenge et al., 2017 ). Given the established research on quality sleep and improved mental health, it is important to reframe quality sleep as an integral aspect of supporting mental health, especially at the onset of traumatic stressor events (Scott et al., 2021 ). Interestingly, while Gen X, Gen Z, and Millennial groups reported issues related to sleep, only Gen Z and Millennial groups showed significant increased use of sleep aids. This suggests that younger generational groups were more inclined to use a sleep aid, while Gen X participants also struggled with sleep yet were less likely to use a sleep aid. Previous research on sleep medication and mental health indicates that individuals meeting 2-week provisional MDD, SD, and GAD diagnoses were more likely to use a sleep aid (Grigsby et al., 2022 ). Therefore, while it is important for everyone to be screened for sleep issues and/or the use of sleep aids, potential recommendations and interventions may differ across generational groups. It may be particularly prudent to address these issues with the Gen Z group, since these behaviors can be contributing factors to poor mental health outcomes during times of traumatic stress.


This study has several limitations. First, a population-based, cross-sectional research design was used to expedite data collection during the initial stages of the pandemic. We were interested in examining the different generational cohort responses to the COVID-19 pandemic as birth cohort identification has become of a focus of popular media and led to an increase in identification with these labels. Since the COVID-19 pandemic has had a relatively unique impact as an immediate and now chronic stressor, it is difficult to definitively separate out the contribution of aging from that of generational cohort effects on mental health and maladaptive coping behaviors related to the pandemic. Furthermore, while cross-sectional research designs allow for timely data collection, the downside to this methodology is separating out age-related changes from socio-historical cohort effects across age groups that can confound results. To avoid such limitations, future research mental health and generational cohorts should use longitudinal or cross-sequential timepoints to better characterize the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic that are related to age or cohort influences. Second, the demographic makeup of the sample recruited was predominately non-Hispanic White and female. We attempted to ameliorate the lack of generalizability to the U.S. population by employing statistical techniques which included weights and clustering. Next, it is difficult to derive causal relationships between generational differences in mental health outcomes, substance use, and coping strategies, so interpreting associations between variables should be done carefully. Further, because the items assessing substance use behaviors were ordinal (i.e., decreased, increased), it is not possible to quantify the changes in behaviors, which would have provided greater insight to problematic alcohol and substance use. Lastly, data were collected using a targeted ad campaign on social media and may be impacted by selection and response bias. By doing so, there were differences in the comparison group sizes, with the Gen Z group representing 3.2% of the general sample, and 8.8% of the weighted sample. This discrepancy is likely due to only including Gen Zs who were 18 years or older and using Facebook as the recruitment tool. However, the sample was weighted to reflect the total U.S. population based on generational and age estimates to mitigate this limitation. Further, while social media use is highly prevalent among all adult age groups in the U.S., it is possible that older adults who are less likely to use social media or technology may have been more vulnerable during the pandemic (Hajek & König, 2021 ).

These preliminary findings highlight the importance of conducting future research investigating the implementation of early intervention strategies (e.g., early screening and detection) and access to mental health resources for younger adults during the initial outbreak of a pandemic. While everyone can be affected by a global pandemic or other traumatic stressor events, developmentally, some will experience a stronger, more salient impact than others. Our results indicate that younger adults belonging to Gen Z were a more psychologically vulnerable population compared to older adults belonging to the baby boomer cohort who demonstrate more resiliency in mental health outcomes (Chen, 2020 ). Future studies should continue to explore developmental differences in psychopathology and coping behaviors between generational groups to buffer against symptoms of psychopathology. Gen Z and Millennial generations are more likely to seek out mental health resources through social media or online self-tools, so using these online platforms to screen for psychopathology through community-wide programming strategies is key. Despite similarities, even the younger generational cohorts have been found to seek out and interact differently to digital intervention materials related to substance abuse (Ashford et al., 2020 ; Curtis et al., 2019 ). Therefore, targeted, developmental-appropriate, prevention–intervention strategies should be implemented at the onset of traumatic stressor events to mitigate, maladaptive psychological antecedents which contribute to psychopathology and mental health disorders.

This research received no specific grant from any funding agency, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.


The authors declare no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

The authors assert that all procedures contributing to this work comply with the ethical standards of the relevant national and institutional committees on human experimentation and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2008.

Publisher's Note

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The Psychology Behind Generational Conflict

Older people have groused about younger people for millennia. Now we know why

Ted Scheinman

Senior Editor

boomer illustration head to head

Complaining about the young is a longstanding prerogative of the old; just as baby boomers and Gen X’ers today lament the shortcomings of millennials and Gen Z, parents in the 1920s looked askance at their flapper daughters, the mothers of pre-revolutionary France pooh-poohed their “effeminate” sons, and so on back to the fourth century B.C. and Aristotle, who said of Greece’s young people: “They think they know everything, and are always quite sure about it.”

Now, some 2,500 years later, researchers are offering a pair of psychological explanations for this recurring complaint, or what they call the “kids these days effect.” In studies involving 3,458 Americans ages 33 to 51 recruited and evaluated online, John Protzko and Jonathan Schooler of the University of California, Santa Barbara, measured respondents’ authoritarian tendencies, intelligence and enthusiasm for reading. “While people may believe in a general decline,” the researchers observed in the journal Science Advances , “they also believe that children are especially deficient on the traits in which they happen to excel.”

Authoritarian people, it turns out, are more likely to suspect that today’s youth are lacking in respect for authority, while well-read people are more likely to bemoan that kids these days never seem to be reading. More intelligent people are also more likely to say that young people are getting stupider—a remarkable conviction, given decades of rising intelligence domestically and globally.

At the heart of this denigrating effect is flawed memory, Protzko and Schooler say. Sometimes older people mistakenly recall that kids in the past were more accomplished than today’s kids, who suffer by comparison. “People in their 20s and 30s are going to grow up looking at kids and thinking they’re deficient,” Protzko says. So, while the baby boomers continue to weather volleys of “OK, boomer” from youngsters who blame them for despoiling the earth, older Americans can take comfort in knowing that members of Generation Z will one day hear the inevitable: “OK, zoomer.”

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Ted Scheinman | | READ MORE

Ted Scheinman is a senior editor for Smithsonian magazine. He is the author of Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan .

Generational Change in Religion and Religious Practice: A Review Essay

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  • Published: 22 April 2021
  • Volume 63 , pages 461–482, ( 2021 )

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Numerous studies have been done of the religious affiliations, beliefs, and practices of the Millennial generation (North Americans born between 1980 and 1995). Many of these studies assume that their findings will be useful to denominations and congregations wishing to attract more young people. But at least one influential social theory would imply the opposite: that religious decline is inevitable as societies modernize and secularize.

The current essay suggests a useful addition to the religious decline theory, the work of Karl Mannheim and his followers on the sociology of generations, and applies it to the major studies of generational change and continuity in religious practice among young adults in present-day North America.

In total, 35 academic books, 43 articles in refereed journals, and 22 denominational research reports are included in the analysis. Only works studying the religious beliefs, practices, and affiliations of the Millennial generation in the United States and Canada, and based on data collected through approved social science research methods are included.

The essay first summarizes the findings of the studies, noting similarities and differences in religious decline across the various social locations of race, gender, and country. Next, it summarizes the causes that the various studies have postulated for this decline, relating them to Mannheim’s argument that the “fresh encounter” with one’s childhood religious worldview which occurs in young adulthood is a key determinant of whether a person accepts or rejects his/her childhood religious socialization. A final section evaluates the effectiveness of the suggestions that some of the studies make for stemming or reversing religious decline in young adulthood, in the light of Mannheim’s theory.

Conclusions and Implications

A key determinant of religious affiliation, belief, and practice in adulthood is the fresh encounter that young adults have with the culture and worldview transmitted to them in childhood. The lifecycle stage of emerging adulthood poses a challenge to denominations and congregations since it is often the age group that is least connected with organized religion. The essay concludes with suggestions for further research.

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Bridging Generational Divides in Your Workplace

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the generational differences essay

It’s both a culture and policy question.

Due largely to early retirements and a caustic mix of ageism and cost-cutting measures, businesses let too many older workers go during the pandemic — and when they left, so did a lot of institutional memory, expertise, and loyalty. With fewer younger workers entering the labor market for at least a generation, employers that don’t think beyond today’s working-age population will likely struggle to build a reliable workforce that can maintain operational efficiency and effectiveness. They must reconsider their DEI strategies to meet the demands of a new era if they want to drive operational effectiveness, increase competitiveness, widen their appeal to consumers of all ages and abilities, and build long-term resilience. The authors describe how leaders can account for the changes — and benefits — that come with an aging workforce to power productivity into the future.

Demographic change is one of the least understood yet profoundly important issues facing organizations today. The “working-age population” in the U.S. — those from age 16 to 64 — is contracting at a pace not experienced since World War II. Unlike that period, there is no “baby boom” behind it, and none is expected in the near future. Generation Z has three million fewer people than the Millennial generation, and Generation Alpha, which follows Gen Z, is expected to be even smaller.

  • Debra Sabatini Hennelly advises executives and boards on enhancing organizational resilience by creating cultures of candor, inclusion, integrity, and innovation. She engages teams and leaders directly to identify and address obstacles to psychological safety and ethical decision making, increasing collaboration, well-being, and productivity. Debbie also coaches ethics and compliance professionals in effective leadership and personal resilience. Her pragmatic approach is informed by her engineering and legal background and decades of corporate leadership, C-suite, and advisory roles in compliance and ethics, legal, environment and safety, and strategic management. Debbie is an adjunct professor in Fordham University Law School’s Program on Corporate Ethics & Compliance, a frequent speaker at professional conferences, and the founder and president of Resiliti (
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  • Published: 06 July 2023

Generational differences in climate-related beliefs, risk perceptions and emotions in the UK

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Communications Earth & Environment volume  4 , Article number:  229 ( 2023 ) Cite this article

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It is widely believed that younger generations are more engaged with climate change than older generations. However, evidence of a gap in climate-related perceptions and concern is mixed, likely due to the inconsistent use of outcome variables. Here we systematically examine generational differences across different types of climate engagement including cognitive and affective dimensions. Using data from three nationally-representative surveys conducted in the UK in 2020, 2021 and 2022, we show there is an overall pattern of higher levels of climate-related beliefs, risks perceptions and emotions among younger generation groups. However, the gap is larger and more consistent for climate-related emotions than for climate-related beliefs. While generational differences in climate-related emotions were found across all years, the overall gap has disappeared due to narrowing climate-related beliefs and risk perceptions. The generational differences are therefore mainly in emotional engagement rather than in beliefs about anthropogenic climate change.

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Research often shows that younger age groups are more concerned about climate change than older age groups 1 , 2 , 3 . This appears intuitive, given that younger age groups have grown up earlier hearing and learning about climate change and will be affected more by its consequences. The increased level of concern even goes beyond emotionally manageable levels as recent literature suggests. Evidence is growing that climate related anxiety is taking a toll on the wellbeing of children and young people, as they become aware of the threats posed by a heating planet 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 . The idea that there is a generation gap in engagement with climate change is further strengthened by young climate activists capturing the media’s and public’s attention 8 , 9 .

There are however questions regarding the nature and the size of the generation gap, as effects have not been observed consistently. Age-related differences have been found in beliefs about the reality, causes, and impacts of climate change, with older individuals being more likely to express climate sceptical views than younger ones 3 , 10 , 11 , 12 ; and there is evidence that younger people are more concerned about the environment in general 13 , 14 and climate change in particular 2 , 15 . Furthermore, younger age groups may be more likely to experience climate-related emotions, such as worry, anger and guilt 16 , as well as climate-related anxiety 4 . However, other research only found small or absent age differences 17 . For example, Shi and colleagues (2016) report that age was not significant in explaining climate concern in five out of six countries; and a meta-analysis of research published between 1970 and 2010 concluded that age effects for environmental concern, values and commitment were negligible 18 .

The mixed evidence regarding the nature and size of the generational gap may in part be due to methodological differences, and specifically because of the inconsistent use of outcome measures that suggest a similar comparison when they indeed express different levels of cognitive and affective engagement with the issue. Common variables used in previous studies include climate change beliefs, which are propositional cognitions about the nature of climate change that may or may not correspond with reality, and climate concern, which reflects an emotional state resulting from an affective evaluation of the seriousness of the impacts of climate change 3 . Risk perceptions as a related but different construct can be subdivided into perceived likelihood and seriousness, generalised concern, and personal worry 19 . Where perceived likelihood and seriousness are subjective cognitive evaluations of the risks and impacts of climate change, personal worry reflects a more experiential, emotional response to an uncertain and potentially dangerous future caused by the issue. Generalised concern is similarly experiential, but in contrast to worry can be expressed without motivational or emotional content 19 . That is, someone who is concerned about climate change may consider it a serious issue without experiencing feelings of tension or unease. In turn, worry and concern can be distinguished from the more intense emotions of fear 20 , 21 , 22 , which is related to the fight-or-flight defence system 23 , and anxiety 4 , 6 , which is characterized by excessive and uncontrollable apprehension that can lead to psychological distress and physical symptoms. As such, climate fear and anxiety are potentially more debilitating and maladaptive than climate concern and worry 6 , 24 . Fig.  1 represents how the different constructs of climate-related beliefs, risk perceptions and emotions can be conceptually related to one another. This comprehensive model of climate engagement holds that the different cognitive and affective components of climate-related perceptions reflect different types and degrees of engagement with climate change, comprising cognitions about its nature (beliefs), subjective evaluation of its risks and consequences (risk perceptions), and the feelings it evokes (emotions). That is, the different climate-related components can be placed on a cognitive-affective dimensions, with the more affective constructs reflecting a higher level of engagement with the issue. As suggested by Fig.  1 , there is a hierarchical relationship between climate-related beliefs, risk perceptions and emotions. The lower components of the model are a necessary but insufficient condition for the higher components. While someone can recognise the reality of anthropogenic climate change, the person may not perceive it as a threat or experience any climate related emotions. On the other hand, in order to experience climate-related emotions, one has to believe that anthropogenic climate change is real and poses a threat. As such, it is important to clearly distinguish between the different components, as generational differences may exist for some but not for others.

figure 1

Comprehensive model of climate engagement.

Here, we explore generational differences across all these dimensions of climate engagement, using data from three cross-sectional nationally-representative surveys conducted in 2020, 2021 and 2022 in the United Kingdom (UK). The surveys contained a range of questions on beliefs regarding the causes, temporal proximity and urgency of climate change, as well as perceived impacts and threats, worry and other experienced emotions. The three cross-sectional surveys were analysed independently using the named groups based on the theory of generations, whereby different generations are shaped by shared experiences based on specific social and historical events and circumstances 25 , 26 . These generational labels help to draw together insights about different age cohorts over time, based on the assumption that those shared experiences lead to the formation of common values and opinions amongst the individuals 27 . The six named generations relevant to the analysis are the Post-War (or ‘silent’) generation (born between 1928 and 1945), the first half of the baby boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1954), the second half of the baby boomer generation (born between 1955 and 1964), Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980), Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996), and Generation Z (born after 1996). We use these named groups, as it is the most widely-used classification of generations in the western world and as a result are widely recognised. Furthermore, (media) reports and several recent academic studies have used this classification to discuss generational differences in relation to climate change 16 , 28 , 29 .

Generational differences in climate-related beliefs, risk perceptions and emotions

Participants in the surveys responded to ten questions to assess their beliefs, risk perceptions and experienced emotions regarding climate change. Most questions used a 5-point response scale, with higher scores indicating higher levels of belief in the anthropogenic nature, temporal proximity and urgency of climate change, higher levels of perceived risks and threats, and more strongly felt emotions. The temporal proximity question (“already feeling the effects”) was dichotomized due to the distribution of scores (67%, 65% and 68% indicated that they think we are already feeling the effects of climate change in 2020, 2021 and 2022 respectively).

Table  1 shows the mean scores and standard deviations for the ten questions for the five generation groups in 2020, 2021, and 2022 respectively. There is an overall pattern of higher levels of climate-related beliefs, risk perceptions and emotions among the younger generation groups, in particular in 2020. While the differences between the generation groups appear less profound in 2021 and 2022, with Generation Z and Millennials having slightly lower scores and the Boomers I and Post war group having slightly higher scores than in 2020, the overall pattern is the same.

Linear and logistic regression analyses of the responses show that there were no significant differences in the perceived causes and urgency of climate change across the five generation groups in 2020 (see Table  2 ). The Boomer II group are however more than two-and-a-half times more likely than the Generation Z group to think “we are already feeling the effects” of climate change (OR = 2.70, 95%CI [1.24, 5.84]). While there were no significant differences in the perceived impacts of climate change across the generation groups, the perceived threats to self and family and to the UK were lower for all generation groups as compared to Generation Z. Similarly, the Generation X, Boomer II, and Boomers I and older groups were less worried, and less strongly felt the emotions of fear, guilt and outrage. Overall, these results suggests that, while there are no major differences in climate-related beliefs, there may be a generation gap in climate-related risk perceptions and emotions.

Table  2 further shows there were fewer significant differences between the generations in 2021 and 2022. In contrast to the results from 2020, the Boomers II and Boomers I and older groups show a higher belief in the anthropogenic nature of climate change as compared to Generation Z in 2021. However, this difference is absent again in 2022. The two groups (and Millennials in 2022) also had a higher level of belief that we are already feeling the effects of climate change compared to Generation Z in both years (OR = 2.30, 95%CI [1.15, 4.72] and OR = 4.66, 95%CI [2.40, 9.04] for the Boomers II group in 2021 and 2022, respectively; OR = 4.04, 95%CI [2.00, 8.19] and OR = 3.42, 95%CI [1.76, 6.65] for the Boomers I and older group in 2021 and 2022, respectively; and OR = 2.54, 95%CI [1.35, 4.81] for the Generation X group in 2022). No major differences in climate-related risk perceptions were found between the different generation groups in 2021 or 2022, with only a few significant effects, which is in contrast to the results for 2020. Most significantly, there were still generational differences in the strength of climate-related emotions in both 2021 and 2022, in particular between the two baby boomer groups and Generation Z.

Climate-related beliefs, risk perceptions and emotions as repeated measures

The results from the linear and logistic regression analyses suggest that the generational gap is stronger for climate-related risk perceptions and emotions than for climate-related beliefs, and that this gap diminished between 2020 and 2021/2022. To more robustly test generational differences, we conducted a series of consecutive multilevel regression models in which nine out of the ten variables were considered as repeated measures (Level 1) clustered within individuals (Level 2). This approach allows for cross-level interactions between the different generational groups on the one hand and the type of measures (i.e., whether they are about climate-related beliefs, risk perceptions or emotions) on the other.

An empty ‘null’ model, without any predictors, shows that the intraclass correlation (ICC) was 0.39 in 2020. The ICC expresses the fraction of the total variation that can be accounted for by between-person differences rather than within-person differences. This means that 39% of the variance is shared across the nine repeated measures. This shared variance can be attributed to the individual and is likely to reflect a person’s general concern about climate change. Comparable results were found for 2021 (ICC = 0.36) and 2022 (ICC = 0.33).

Results in Table  3 show that, in 2020, the two baby boomer groups expressed less engagement with climate change across the nine repeated measures (Model 1). When the different types of measures were considered in Model 2, it appeared that the generational differences were in climate-related risk perceptions and emotions, and not in climate-related beliefs. In particular, the Boomers II and Boomers I and older groups had lower climate-related risk perceptions and emotions than Generation Z, while Generation X only had lower climate-related emotions than Generation Z.

The results suggest that the generational gap in engagement with climate change across the nine repeated measures did not exist in 2021 and was smaller in 2022 than in 2020 (Model 1). When differences in the three types of measures were considered in Model 2, results for 2021 were largely comparable to those for 2020, in that there are similar generational differences in climate-related risk perceptions and emotions. The study however suggests that the change is only for climate-related beliefs, and not for perceived risks or emotions. Results from 2022 largely followed the same pattern, although generational differences for risk perceptions also disappeared in this period. The differences in emotional engagement with climate change however remained significant across all years. This adds confidence to the finding that differences between generation groups are mainly regarding affective, not cognitive, engagement with climate change.

When combining the three survey years for an overall analysis (see Supplementary Table  1 ), it appears that Generation X and the two baby boomer groups have less engagement with climate change than Generation Z, and that these differences are due to differences in risk perceptions and climate-related emotions. The two baby boomer groups have lower climate related risk perceptions and emotions than Generation Z, while Generation X only has lower climate related emotions. Overall, there were no differences in climate engagement between Millennials and Generation Z.

Using three nationally-representative surveys conducted in 2020 to 2022 in the UK, we conclude that generational differences are mainly found in emotional engagement with climate change and less so with regards to cognitive beliefs about the reality and causes of climate change. More precisely, our results show that younger generations more strongly feel the negative emotions of fear, guilt and outrage as compared to older generations. Generational differences in climate change beliefs and perceived impacts were smaller and appear to have narrowed from 2020 to 2021/2022. A surprising finding is that older generations are more likely to think that we are already feeling the effects of climate change. The findings for risk perceptions were more variable across the three surveys, but in two out of the three years we replicate previous research showing that younger people have higher levels of risk perception as well as worry about climate change than older generations 15 . Overall, the findings show the importance of clearly distinguishing between the different constructs of climate-related beliefs, risk perceptions and emotions and consider them separately when exploring generational patterns.

The results provide further clarity to the literature showing that age is of little relevance for climate change scepticism 30 , but that it is an important factor in threat perceptions, climate change worry and other climate-related emotions 1 , 3 , 16 . This suggests that, while there are only negligible differences in climate-related cognitions, younger age groups show stronger emotional engagement with climate change. Although the current study did not explicitly focus on climate anxiety, one of the clearest differences identified was for the emotion of fear. Fear can be a corrosive emotion and could take a heavy toll on younger generations by affecting their action and wellbeing negatively 4 , although experienced negative emotions may also have more positive, motivational effects 7 . Emotions have been shown to play an important role in human responses to climate change 31 , and can help evoke adaptive coping reactions, including sustainable behaviour 7 , support for climate policies 32 , social support 16 , and climate activism 33 . The greater intensity of emotions, such as outrage, may be one of the reasons as to why younger generations demonstrate high levels of active engagement with the issue of climate change 34 . It is worth noting that the emotions of fear, guilt and outrage are generally experienced less than worry, and that all average scores are below the scale midpoint except some for Millennials (i.e. fear) and Generation Z (i.e. fear and outrage), which are just above the scale midpoint. This suggests that climate-related emotions have not yet reached levels that could lead to maladaptive responses or interfere with the younger generation’s ability to function at this stage 4 , 5 .

Our study further identified some notable differences in generational effects between our samples over the last three years. While similar generational differences were found in regard of climate-related emotion, the overall generational gap appears to have diminished from 2020 to 2021/2022 due to a narrowing of climate-related beliefs and to some extent climate-related risk perceptions. This is in contrast to the received understanding and previous research showing that older age groups have lower agreement with anthropogenic climate change 35 . Older generations even appear to have higher levels of beliefs regarding the temporal proximity of climate change than younger generations. This effect may be explained by the declining remarkability of temperature anomalies. Temperature anomalies are rapidly becoming the new normal and are notably different to people who have experienced previous lower frequencies of extreme weather events 36 . This leads to shifting baselines to which current temperatures and experiences with climate-related events are compared 37 . That is, older age groups are able to compare current temperatures and events with a longer reference period when they were less affected by anthropogenic climate change.

The observed generational gap diminishing from 2020 to 2021/2022 may be due to increased media reporting and attention to the topic 38 . Mass protests by the Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion movements, the publication of the IPCC special report on 1.5 °C global warming, and extreme weather events had already pushed climate change higher up the media and public agendas 8 , 39 , 40 , only for attention for the issue to be overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 41 . The following year saw a resurgence in media coverage of climate change in the UK, in particular following the publication of the UK Net Zero Strategy and reaching a peak at the time of the COP26 conference in Glasgow 38 .

The contribution of the current research is that it examined generational differences across different types of climate engagement including cognitive and affective dimensions. While previous studies have examined generational differences for specific construct measures, and age is routinely included as a socio-demographic factor in climate perception research, this is the first-time generational differences were examined jointly for climate-related beliefs, risk perceptions and emotions. However, the study is cross-sectional, and it is therefore not possible to determine whether the generational differences in climate-related beliefs, risk perception and emotions are due to developmental or cohort effects 35 . The generational differences may be the result of differences in experiences and conditions the different age groups may have had at key stages of their life or reflect that people’s views develop and change as they grow older.

One of the main findings of the study is that generation gap is most consistent when it comes to affective responses to climate change. The question here is whether younger generations will develop less affective response to climate change as they age in line with the current older generation, or whether the experienced emotions will continue or even strengthen. The increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events 42 , and the psychological responses they evoke 43 , 44 , suggest that climate anxiety among younger age groups is unlikely to follow the same trajectory as older age groups. Cohort and developmental effects can however only be disentangled with well-designed longitudinal studies, which are currently not available. In addition, it is possible that there are period or era effects where all age groups experience the same events and conditions, but the impacts may differ for each group 16 , 45 , 46 . There are indications that cohort, developmental and period effects all play a role in the patterns of engagement with climate change across the different age groups. People become more politically conservative as they age 47 and develop value and trait patterns that are less conducive to an environmental worldview 48 , 49 , 50 , 51 . The results from this study suggest that events that have taken place in the past few years (such as increased media attention, Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion protests, and COP26) have had differential impacts across the different generational groups considered, indicating period effects. Other longitudinal research, using 10-year panel data from New Zealand, shows that that older age cohorts started from a lower level of climate change belief, but that different age cohorts increased their belief level at a similar rate 35 . Milfont et al. (2021) were however only able to conduct the analyses for climate change beliefs. Currently, there are no good quality datasets available that allow similar analyses across the different dimensions of climate engagement that were considered in the current study.

In this paper we used the named generations to explore generational differences in engagement with climate change named generational groups based on the theory of generations. It has to be considered that the different generational groups vary in their time span. The baby boomer generation covers almost two decades (and was therefore divided into two sub-groups), Generation X and Millennials span about 15 years each, and Generation Z only involved up to eight years in this study. The relatively large time span of some of the generational groups may mean that individuals who are born close to the cut off with other generation groups may have more in common with those other groups than individuals who are born in the middle of the cohort. Furthermore, given that not all of Generation Z had turned 18 yet at the time of our surveys, this generational group was relatively small and as a result only had small samples in the three survey years. This may have affected the statistical power to detect differences with other generational groups, such as Millennials. We therefore conducted an additional analysis using similarly sized age cohorts of 10 years (born in 2004–1993, 1992–1983, 1982–1973, 1972–1963, 1962–1953, and 1952- and before). These age cohorts broadly match the Generation Z, Millennials, younger Generation X, older Generation X, Boomers II and Boomers I, respectively. The descriptive results for the different age cohorts are provided in Table Supplementary Table  2 . The results of the multilevel analysis are provided in Supplementary Table  3 . The age cohort analysis validates the results from the generational analysis. There are only minimal differences between the 2004–1993 and 1992–1983 cohorts (roughly matching Generation Z and Millennials, respectively). Generational differences can be found between the 2004–1993 cohort on the one hand and the 1982–1973, 1972–1963, 1962–1953, and 1952 – cohorts on the other. The 1972–1963, 1962–1953, and 1952 – cohorts (roughly matching older Generation X, Boomers II and Boomers I, respectively) have lower climate-related risk perceptions and emotions than the 2004–1993 cohort, while the 1982–1973 cohort (younger Generation Xers) only has lower climate related emotions as compared to the 2004–1993 cohort. This shows that even with other cut-off points for the age groups, the main conclusion still holds that the generation gap is most consistent when it comes to affective responses to climate change, rather than to beliefs about whether climate change exists or is caused by human activity.

Remaining research gaps are about whether similar patterns can be found in other countries and cultures. The named generations used in this study are based on the theory of generations that was developed in a Western context and anchored around events and conditions within the Western world. Similar generational groups and patterns may therefore not apply to different countries or populations. Furthermore, little is known about the consequences of generational differences in engagement with climate change. The implications of climate related emotions for younger generations’ mental and physical wellbeing need to be considered 4 , including how cognitive and emotional engagement can be fostered for constructive and avoiding maladaptive outcomes 6 . Here it is essential to not put the onus on the younger generations to take action. Older generations are in a position of power to shape policies that will help to reduce the risks for future generations. The current study shows that, while there are no generational differences in the acknowledgement of the reality and seriousness of climate change, emotional engagement among older generations appears to be lacking. An important avenue of research is therefore on how communications and interventions can be used to bolster the emotional engagement of older generations for the benefit of the younger and future generations.

The surveys

We used the first three waves of a series of cross-sectional online surveys conducted by the CAST Centre, with data collected between 29th September and 26th October 2020, 28th August and 22nd September 2021, and 5th September and 6th October 2022 by the survey company DJS research. Participants were recruited through online panels. Informed consent was obtained from all participants. The samples were broadly representative of the British population with quotas for gender, age, region, and socioeconomic status. The methodology used to collect the data was consistent across the three waves of the survey. The first wave (2020) of data consisted of 1893 participants, including booster samples in Scotland ( n  = 485) and Wales ( n  = 467). The second wave (2021) of data consisted of 1001 participants. The third wave (2022) included 1087 participants. The surveys obtained approval from the School of Psychology Research Ethics Committee (Wave 1: EC.; Wave 2: EC.; Wave 3: EC.

The CAST surveys cover a wide range of topics relating to climate change perceptions, policy support and willingness to change behaviours in the areas of food and diet, transport and mobility, household energy use, and material consumption. Here, we specifically focus on the items that were designed to measure climate-related beliefs, risk perceptions and emotions respectively (see Table  1 ).

Climate-related beliefs comprised three items. Perceived causes of climate change was measured with the item “Thinking about the causes of climate change, which, if any, of the following best describes your opinion”. Participants answered the question using a scale that ranged from 1 (Climate change is entirely caused by natural processes) to 5 (Climate change is completely caused by human activity), with 3 representing “Climate change is partly caused by natural processes and partly caused by human activity”. A few responded with “There is no such thing as climate change“ ( n  = 18, n  = 23, and n  = 7 for the three waves respectively), which was coded as 0. Perceived temporal distance was measured with the item “When, if at all, do you think the UK will start feeling the effects of climate change?”. Here, respondents could choose from seven options (We are already feeling the effects; In the next 10 years; In the next 25 years; In the next 50 years; In the next 100 years; Beyond the next 100 years; Never). The distribution of responses warranted a recoding into a dummy variable to compare “We are already feeling the effects” (1) against all other responses (0). 66.8%, 64.6% and 68.4 of the respondents said that we are already feeling the effects of climate change in 2020, 2021, and 2022 respectively, with low numbers for the remaining categories (9.6%, 7.0%, 3.8%, 1.0%, 1.2% and 2.0% for 2020; 11.6%, 8.3%, 3.6%, 0.7%, 1.2% and 1.9% for 2021; and 11.2%, 6.5%, 3.1%, 1.4%, 0.9% and 0.9% for 2022). Respondents indicated their perceived level of urgency in response to the question “Which of these best describes your views about the level of urgency with which climate change needs to be addressed?”. The response scale ranged from 1 (Addressing climate change requires little or no urgency) to 5 (Addressing climate change requires and extremely high level of urgency).

Climate-related risk perceptions consisted of the perceived impacts of climate change (“Overall, how positive or negative do you think the effects of climate change will be on the UK?”), and the perceived threats of climate change to (a) self and family, and (b) to the UK (“How serious a threat, if at all, is climate change to each of the following?“; (a) “… you and your family”, and (b) “…the UK as a whole”). The former could be answered using a bipolar 5-point answer scale anchored by 1 (Entirely positive) and 5 (Entirely negative), and a scale midpoint of 3 (Neither positive nor negative). The latter could be answered using a unipolar 5-point answer scale ranging from 1 (Not serious at all) to 5 (Extremely serious).

Climate-related emotions comprised “worry”, “fear”, “guilt” and “outrage”. Respondents expressed their levels of worry about climate change on a 5-point scale, ranging from 1 (Not at all worried) to 5 (Extremely worried). Respondents were asked to indicate their levels of fear, guilt and outrage in response to the question “When you think about climate change and everything that you associate with it, how strongly, if at all, do you feel each of the following emotions?”. Here respondent could use a scale ranging from 1 (Not at all) to 5 (Very much).

The main independent variable comprised the categorisation of respondents into the seven main generations of Generation Z (born between 1996–2010), Millennials (born between 1981 and 1995), Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980), Boomers II or Generation Jones (born between 1955 and 1964), Boomers I (born between 1946 and 1954) and the Post-war or ‘silent’ generation (born between 1928 and 1945). The survey did not include respondents from the Greatest generation (born between 1901 and 1927). Due to the low numbers for the Post-war generation, these were combined with the Boomers I groups. The study further used the covariates of gender (male and female), education (having a university degree or not) political orientation , and home nation (England, Scotland or Wales). Political orientation was determined using an 11-point self-placement scale ranging from 1 (left) to 11 (right). The scale was standardised by calculating the Z scores across the three waves (Wave 1: M  = 6.29, SD = 2.57; Wave 2: M  = 6.40, SD = 2.22; M  = 6.18, SD = 2.21).

Analytical approach

The cross-sectional analyses consisted of a series of (1) linear and logistic regressions and (2) multilevel analyses. All analyses were conducted using R statistical software (version 4.0.2) in combination with RStudio (version 2021.09.0 + 351) and the stats 52 and lme4 53 packages. The R code can be accessed at .

First, the different climate-related beliefs (perceived causes, already feeling effects, and perceived urgency of climate change), risk perceptions (perceived impacts, perceived threat to self and family, and perceived threat to the UK), and emotions (worry, fear, guilt and outrage) were regressed on the different generational groups, with Generation Z as the reference group. Gender, degree, and political orientation were included as covariates. Linear regression models were constructed, except for ‘already feeling the effects’ for which an ordinal regression model was fitted. Analyses were conducted separately for the three consecutive survey years.

Second, the data were analysed from a multilevel repeated measures perspective 54 . This specific cross-sectional analysis considers the climate-related beliefs, risk perceptions and emotions as repeated measures (Level 1) that are nested within participants (Level 2). In this approach the measures can be conceptualised as repeated judgments about climate change made by (and thus nested within) individuals, with the judgments differing in terms of their content, i.e. they are judgments relating to the reality and nature of climate change (beliefs), the risks and consequences of climate change (risk perceptions), and how climate change is experienced emotionally (emotions) respectively. This approach can be used to apportion variance that is specific to and common across the different measures, and thus allows for the assessment of cross-level interactions between measure-specific (e.g. measure type) and individual-level characteristics (e.g. generational group). Two sets of multilevel models were constructed. The first set (Model 1) included the different generation groups, the covariates as the independent variables (gender, education, and political orientation). The second set (Model 2) added two measure-specific dummy variables identifying the Risk perception and Emotion questions respectively, as well as their interactions with the different generation groups. Generation Z was used as the reference group throughout. In both models, the different climate-related beliefs, risk perceptions and emotions served as the dependent variables. The binary’already feeling the effects’ variable was omitted from the analyses. An empty ‘null’ model (Model 0), without any predictors, was also constructed to estimate the intraclass correlation (ICC), representing the proportion of variance that is common across the different measures and thus can be attributed to the individual (Level 2) rather than to a specific measure (Level 1). The analyses were conducted separately for 2020, 2021, and 2022 data, with a combined analysis provided in Supplementary Table  1 .

Reporting summary

Further information on research design is available in the  Nature Portfolio Reporting Summary linked to this article.

Data availability

All data and accompanying documents can be accessed at . All data and accompanying documents can be accessed at the UK Data Service ( ) after 31 July 2024.

Code availability

The questionnaires and R code can be accessed at .

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We acknowledge support from the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) through the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (CAST), Grant Ref: ES/S012257/1.

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W.P.: conceptualization, formal analysis, methodology, writing – original draft, review and editing. C.D.: writing – original draft, and review and editing. K.S.: writing – original draft, and review and editing. All authors contributed to the design of the CAST surveys. All authors contributed to the article and approved the submitted version.

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Poortinga, W., Demski, C. & Steentjes, K. Generational differences in climate-related beliefs, risk perceptions and emotions in the UK. Commun Earth Environ 4 , 229 (2023).

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the generational differences essay

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  • Essay on Generation Gap


What is the Generation Gap?

Generation Gap is a term given to the gap or age difference between two sets of people; the young people and their elders, especially between children and their parents. Everything is influenced by the change of time- the age, the culture, mannerism, and morality. This change affects everyone. The generation gap is an endless social phenomenon. Every generation lives at a certain time under certain circumstances and conditions. So, all generations have their own set of values and views. Every generation wants to uphold the principles they believe in. This is a problem that has continued for ages.

People born in different periods under different conditions have their views based on the circumstances they have been through. The patterns of life have been changing continuously according to time. Everyone wants to live and behave in his way and no one wants to compromise with his or her values and views. There has always been a difference in attitude or lack of understanding between the younger and older generations. This attitude has augmented the generation gap and it is becoming wider day by day. This gap now has started impacting our lives in the wrong way. 

It is always good to have a wide range of ideas, views, and opinions. It indicates how we are developing and advancing but sometimes this becomes worrisome when the views and ideas are not accepted by both generations. Parents create a certain image in their minds for their children. They want to bring up their children with values that they have been brought up with and expect their children to follow the same. Parents want children to act following their values, as they believe, it is for their benefit and would do well for them. 

Children on the other hand have a broader outlook and refuse to accept the traditional ways. They want to do things their way and don’t like going by any rulebook. Mostly, young people experience conflict during their adolescence. They are desperately searching for self-identity. Parents at times fail to understand the demands of this fast-paced world. Ultimately, despite love and affection for each other both are drained out of energy and not able to comprehend the other. Consequently, there is a lack of communication and giving up on relationships.

Different Ways to Reduce the Generation Gap

Nothing in the world can be as beautiful as a parent-child relationship. It should be nurtured very delicately and so it is important to bridge the gap between the two generations. It is time to realize that neither is completely right nor wrong. Both generations have to develop more understanding and acceptance for each other. Having a dialogue with each other calmly, with the idea of sorting out conflict amicably in ideas, changing their mindset for each other, and coming to a middle ground can be the most helpful instrument in bridging the gap between the two generations. 

Spending more time with each other like family outings, vacations, picnics, shopping, watching movies together could be some effective ways to build up a strong bond with each other. Both the generations need to study the ways of the society during their growing period and have mutual respect for it. To reduce the friction between the two generations, both parents and children have to give space to each other and define certain boundaries that the latter should respect. 

The generation gap occurs because society is constantly changing. It is the responsibility of both generations to fill this gap with love, affection, and trust. Both generations should have mutual respect for the views and opinions that they uphold and advance cautiously with the development of society.


The generation gap is a very critical concept that occurs because of the different natures of every person. No one can end this generation gap but obviously, you can opt for some way in which it can be reduced. 

There should be efforts made by both sides to get a better relationship between two people. The generation gap may cause conflict between families but if you try to understand the thinking of another person and choose a path in between then you can get a happy living family.

No one wants to live in a tense environment and you always need your elders with yourself no matter what, they are the ones who care for you, they may have different ways of expressing their love and care for you and you might feel awkward but you need to understand them and their ways. Having your elders with you in your family is a blessing, you can talk with them and let them know your views and understand your ways to approach a particular situation.


FAQs on Essay on Generation Gap

1. What do you Understand by Generation Gap?

The gap between the old people and the young is called the generation gap. The generation gap is not only the age difference between young people, their parents, and grandparents, but it is also caused by differences in opinion between two generations; it can be differences in beliefs, differences in views like politics, or differences in values. Therefore a generational gap is a conflict in thoughts, actions, and tastes of the young generation to that of older ones. We can have a good relationship even with a generational gap. All we need to do is understand others' way of thinking.

2. Why Does the Generation Gap Occur?

The generation gap occurs due to differences in views and opinions between the younger and older generation. Both generations want to uphold the principles they believe in. The reason for the generation gap is not only age but it can be because of reasons like:

Difference in beliefs

Difference in interests

Difference in opinion

In today's time, the generational gap has caused conflict between many families. The generational gap occurs because of the following reasons:

Increased life expectancy

The rapid change in society

Mobility of society

The generation gap can be reduced if we work on it with patience and understanding. So whatever may be the reason for the occurrence of the generation gap it can be overcome and a happy relationship can be built between two different people. 

3. How Should the Gap in the two Generations be Bridged?

The gap between the two generations should be bridged by mutual respect, understanding, love, and affection for each other. They both should come to a middle ground and sort things out amicably. Here are a few tips to help children to improve the differences because of the generational gap between their parents and them:

Try to talk more often even if you do not have the time, make time for it.

Spend more time with your parents regularly to develop and maintain your relationship. 

Make them feel special with genuine gestures. 

Share your worries and problems with them.

Respect is the most important thing which you should give them.

Be responsible 

Have patience and understand their perspective in every situation.

4. How Does the Generation Gap Impact Relationships?

Generation gaps disrupt the family completely. Due to a lack of understanding and acceptance, the relationship between the older and the younger generations become strained. Most families can not enjoy their family lives because of disturbed routines either they are too busy with work or other commitments, they are unable to spend time with each other. This increases the generational gap between children and parents. The child is unable to communicate his or her thoughts because of lack of communication and parents are unable to understand what the child is thinking; this causes more differences between them.

The generation gap can cause conflict between a relation of child,  parent, and grandparent. Because of the generational gap, there is a huge difference in the living pattern and pattern in which a person responds to a difficult situation. Elder people often take every situation on themselves and try to seek out the things for others but in today’s generation they believe in working only for themself they do not get bothered by others and they don’t try to seek things for others. But if we work to understand the differences and get a path out in between then the conflicts can be reduced and so the generational gap will not be that bothersome.

5. Where can I find the best essay on Generation Gap?

The generation gap can have a different point of view. Each person has a different way of thinking. Vedantu provides you with the best study material to understand the topic well and write about it. Vedantu is a leading online learning portal that has excellent teachers with years of experience to help students score good marks in exams. The team of Vedantu provides you with study material by subject specialists that have deep knowledge of the topic and excel in providing the best knowledge to their students to get the best results. Visit Vedantu now! 

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Older Vs Younger Generation in an Inspector Calls

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Introduction, an inspector calls: older and younger generation.

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the generational differences essay

the generational differences essay


Deciphering Generation Names, Birth Years and Stereotypes

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the generational differences essay

From sock hops and bell bottoms to low-rise jeans and TikTok dance challenges, each generation has many characteristics and trends that set it apart from the next.

Somewhere along the line, these eras picked up a bundle of different monikers and start and end dates. These generation names and years can be confusing, but there is a method to the madness. Well, most of the time.

For example, Generation Z — aka Gen-Z, aka Post-Millennials, aka iGeneration — begins in either 1994, 1996 or 1997, depending on who you're talking to. However, '97 is the most widely accepted starting year for Gen Zers.

Read on to learn more about the ways we've come to name and define different generations, from those who were children during World War I to younger generations who never knew life without social media platforms.

Defining Generation Names and Dates

The greatest generation (gi generation): born 1901 to 1927, the silent generation: born 1928 to 1945, baby boomer generation: born 1946 to 1964, generation x: born 1965 to 1980, millennial generation: born 1981 to 1996, generation z or igen: born 1997 to 2012, generation alpha: born between 2013 to 2025.

A generation is usually defined as a group of people born and living around the same time, typically spanning about 15 to 20 years. This grouping is based on shared historical, social and cultural experiences that shape their attitudes, values and behaviors.

These shared experiences forge a collective identity that sets each generation apart. For example, the start of the baby boom generation is often tied to the end of World War II , while millennials are typically marked by the rise of the internet and the new millennium.

These generation labels and dates aren't set in stone and can vary slightly depending on the source, but they generally reflect periods of substantial change that influence each generation's formative years.

Setting Generational Boundaries

One major contributor to defining each generation's boundaries is the Pew Research Center , which conducts extensive research and analysis on demographic, social and economic trends.

They establish generational boundaries based on significant historical events, technological advancements and cultural shifts, providing a framework for understanding how different cohorts experience and influence society.

Researchers, media and policymakers widely use definitions and reports from the Pew Research Center to analyze generational differences and their impacts on various aspects of life.

Now, let's look at each generation and its characteristics.

The GI generation is renowned for its resilience and civic duty, shaped by the profound challenges and major historical events of the early 20th century. In one generation, they experienced two world wars and a major economic downturn.

The Greatest Generation came of age during the Great Depression , which began in 1929 and lasted through much of the 1930s. The hardships they faced during this time — such as widespread unemployment and poverty — instilled values of frugality, diligence and perseverance.

Many members of this generation were children during World War I (1914 to 1918), which also influenced their early life experiences. Though too young to participate directly in the First World War, the global impact of the war and its aftermath (including economic instability and societal changes) would have been part of their formative environment.

Their significant involvement in World War II, either on the battlefield or on the home front, further defined their lives, cementing their legacy of resilience and sacrifice.

This generation's experiences of economic and global instability helped shape the mid-20th-century world, laying the foundations for modern societal structures. Their enduring influence is marked by their commitment to duty and ability to thrive despite early adversities.

While resilience is a hallmark, this group is sometimes seen as overly traditional and resistant to change. They have received criticism for clinging to established norms and authority without question and being too skeptical of new technologies and modern innovations.

The Silent Generation grew up during the Great Depression and World War II, events that significantly shaped their attitudes and behaviors. These early experiences instilled a sense of frugality, hard work and duty, which defined much of their approach to life.

So what's with the "silent" label? Well, this moniker is due to its members' perceived cultural and social traits. A 1951 Time magazine article coined the term, observing the generation's tendency to be more cautious, conformist and less vocal about their political and social views than their predecessors.

Growing up during the Depression and Second World War and coming of age during the early Cold War era, many members of this generation prioritized job security and stability, often shying away from activism and public dissent. They are usually viewed as a stabilizing force during times of change, unlike the boomers that followed, who are viewed as more vocal and rebellious.

Baby boomers are the demographic group born between 1946 and 1964. They are defined by the post-World War II baby boom . During this period, birth rates skyrocketed because of economic prosperity, returning soldiers eager to start families, supportive government policies, cultural optimism and the expansion of suburban housing.

This generation grew up during a time of widespread economic prosperity and rapid social change, including the Civil Rights Movement, the Sexual Revolution and the Vietnam War . These events shaped boomers into a generation known for challenging and reshaping societal structures.

Professionally, they are often credited with fueling the economic prosperity of the late 20th century. Boomers are known for their strong work ethic, which is usually characterized as work-centric, competitive and goal-oriented. As they entered the workforce, they also gained a reputation for changing the norms of work and retirement, pushing for more flexibility and a focus on work-life balance .

Socially, baby boomers have been described positively and negatively: They are seen as a generation that values individual freedom and responsibility. However, they are frequently accused of prioritizing their own financial security, contributing to housing market inflation and environmental degradation.

Their impact on politics and economics continues to be significant as they age, especially regarding social security systems and healthcare services, given their vast numbers and active involvement in civic duties.

In recent years, many baby boomers have begun to work past the traditional retirement age , either by necessity or choice. This shift impacts societal views on aging and retirement, setting new standards for future generations.

This generation came of age during shifting societal values and technological advancements, notably the rise of personal computing and the internet.

Growing up during the 1970s and 1980s, Gen Xers witnessed significant political and economic changes, including the end of the Cold War and the 1987 stock market crash (and the implosion of the dot-com bubble as young adults).

Often characterized as "latchkey" kids , many Gen Xers were raised in dual-income or single-parent households. This factor contributed to their reputation for being independent, resourceful and self-reliant. This independence is sometimes seen as cynicism or skepticism, mainly because they experienced several economic downturns and corporate downsizing during their formative years.

In the workplace, Gen Xers are known for valuing a work-life balance, pushing back against the work-centric mentality of their boomer parents. They were among the first to challenge the corporate ladder concept, favoring a more flexible and results-oriented work environment.

Culturally, Gen X has made substantial contributions to music, art and technology. They drove the grunge music movement and the growth of independent film. Gen Xers were also the first generation to grow up with video games and embrace digital technology on a significant scale.

Today, as they move into middle age, Generation Xers are often considered the "middle child" of generations, overshadowed by the larger boomer and millennial generations.

More rarely referred to as Generation Y, this generation has been shaped by unique circumstances, including technological advancements, economic volatility and global connectivity, which have significantly influenced their values, behaviors and lifestyle choices.

Millennials grew up during the rapid expansion of the internet and digital technology, making them highly adept at communicating and processing information through digital platforms. This tech-savvy generation has driven significant changes in how people connect, work and consume media, leading to the rise of social media, the gig economy and streaming entertainment.

Economically, many millennials entered the job market during the Great Recession of the late 2000s, which has had long-lasting effects on their career paths and financial stability. This timing has often led to challenges such as higher levels of student debt and difficulties in achieving traditional milestones like home ownership and marriage.

This generation has faced criticism for being perceived as entitled, overly dependent on technology, lacking work ethic and exhibiting a sense of impatience and craving for instant gratification, often attributed to their upbringing in a rapidly evolving digital age and economic challenges.

Socially and politically, millennials are known for their progressive values. They prioritize issues like climate change , social justice and inclusivity. They are also more likely than previous generations to advocate for government intervention in areas such as health care and environmental regulation.

As millennials mature into key societal roles, their influence continues to grow, reshaping politics, culture and the economy. Their approach to life and work, including a preference for flexible work arrangements and a desire for a meaningful career that aligns with their values, is slowly changing traditional norms.

Generation Z, often called Gen Z, was raised in the era of smartphones and social media, which profoundly influences their communication habits, information consumption and social interactions.

Gen Zers have come of age during significant social, environmental and technological change. These shifts include global challenges such as economic inequality and political polarization, which have shaped the climate change worldview to be pragmatic and inclusive yet cautious about the future.

In terms of technology, they fully embrace the digital age and seamlessly integrate digital tools into their daily lives for education, entertainment and socializing.

Educationally and economically, Gen Z faces unique challenges, including the high costs of education and the uncertainties of job markets influenced by automation and the gig economy. These factors drive many in Gen Z to value practical skills and job security, pushing them toward entrepreneurship and side hustles as ways to achieve financial stability.

Socially and politically, Gen Z is characterized by a strong sense of justice and a commitment to advocacy. They often use digital platforms to mobilize around issues such as climate change, mental health and inclusivity. Their activism is frequently aimed at effecting change at both the grassroots and global levels, illustrating their commitment to positively impacting the world.

Gen Zers are often criticized for being overly reliant on technology, having short attention spans, displaying entitlement and impatience, being overly sensitive in their focus on social justice and lacking the strong work ethic of previous generations.

Gen Alpha is the first generation born entirely in the 21st century, and its upbringing is deeply intertwined with technology. From a very young age, Gen A has been exposed to smartphones, tablets and AI-driven technologies, making it the most technologically immersed generation from the outset.

There is speculation that the digital natives' overdependence on digital devices could reduce face-to-face social skills and attention spans.

The parenting and education of Generation Alpha are significantly influenced by the experiences of millennials, who are their primary parents. This generational connection emphasizes values like inclusivity, environmental awareness and the use of technology for socializing and learning.

With the pervasive presence of advanced technology, Gen Alpha children are likely to experience personalized learning environments and digital play as integral components of their development.

Socially and culturally, Generation Alpha is growing up in a world of global connectivity and diverse communities. Issues like climate change, sustainability and social justice are expected to be central themes in their educational and developmental narratives.

Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has marked a significant part of their early years, likely impacting their schooling, social interactions and family dynamics in profound ways.

Gen Alpha is anticipated to blend digital and physical experiences further as they mature, leveraging technology in innovative ways that will shape their work, entertainment and social relations. Their potential influence on future cultural, technological and environmental advancements is vast, as they will continue to build on the digital foundation laid by older generations.

We created this article in conjunction with AI technology, then made sure it was fact-checked and edited by a HowStuffWorks editor.

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Generational Differences at Work Are Marketing Hype

Understanding engagement through universal needs, not generational stereotypes..

Posted May 17, 2024 | Reviewed by Tyler Woods

  • What Is a Career
  • Find a career counselor near me
  • Generational differences are minimal and often exaggerated.
  • Focus on managing perceptions, not supposed generational gaps.
  • Misleading stereotypes harm workplace dynamics and employee attitudes.

For the first time in history, five different generations are working together . Over the next decade, Millennials will become the majority of the workforce. What are their aspirations? Their behaviors? How should they be managed?

Unfortunately, these discussions are rarely backed 2by empirical data; most arguments are based on intuitive and generalized observations. Additionally, the concept of "generations" seems to mainly benefit the interests of numerous consultants.

Limited scientific support

Millennials want flexibility and transparency, Generation Z needs more security due to economic, environmental, and health crises, and Generation X values salary over a company's innovation capabilities. These stereotypes, naively shared by reputable institutions, are proven wrong when confronted with scientific realities. The differences between generations are much smaller than popular belief suggests, and academic research generally fails to demonstrate significant differences . In short, generational gaps are more of a myth than a substantiated theory. Studies and meta-analyses show nearly non-existent differences between generations in (1) work attitudes , (2) personality , (3) career mobility , conformity to norms, or overtime work, (4) reasons for resignation or motivations to accept a new position.

Similarly, contrary to the myth , there is no increase in narcissistic tendencies across generations. Narcissistic traits are more closely linked to life stages and age rather than generational affiliation. Younger generations appear more narcissistic not because they are different from previous ones, but because narcissism is more pronounced during youth. Some differences are thus attributed to supposed generational effects when they are actually part of our natural evolution and maturation. Indeed, while personality is not easily malleable, it is not set in stone.

A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies shows that young adulthood is the most critical life stage for personality development, and throughout adolescence , traits become more stable, peaking at age 25. Additionally, potential future changes, particularly between ages 20 and 40 , mostly see people becoming more agreeable, emotionally stable, conscientious , and dominant.

Worse, when studies do identify differences , the individual variability within a single generation is greater than that between generations. In other words, individuals within the same cohort are more different from each other than from those in different generations. The proliferation of blind empiricism and credulous opinions has contributed to misleading management practices , potentially leading to harmful consequences and contradicting legal, conceptual, practical, and theoretical foundations.

In light of these findings, it is imperative to shift the focus from managing generational differences to managing perceptions related to generations. This shift is crucial to avoid reinforcing stereotypes and modern ageism.

Negative effects

With each new event, new generations are proposed, further normalizing age-based stereotyping: recently, some have attempted to conceptualize a Covid-19 generation . Research highlights the emergence of individual perceptions, including both what an individual believes about members of other generations (stereotypes) and what they think other groups believe about their own group (meta-stereotypes).

These studies show that both older and younger workers believe others perceive them more negatively than they actually do, and these stereotypes and meta-stereotypes are not accurate. However, they have critical implications for the workplace:

  • Age-related biases negatively affect the quality of training and performance evaluations for older individuals, particularly in the context of new technologies.
  • Being labeled as a Baby Boomer leads to more negative judgments in recruitment, training, and conflict management scenarios.
  • Individuals react with defiance or threat to meta-stereotypes, which can create conflicts or avoidance behaviors.
  • These stereotypes are internalized , causing individuals to conform to behavioral expectations.

Consequently , perceiving oneself as belonging to the same generation as colleagues positively impacts work-related attitudes and behaviors.

Conversely, employees who work with colleagues perceived as belonging to different generations report more negative stereotypes, an increased perception of an age-discriminatory climate, and more negative work attitudes and behaviors.

These conclusions, however, are a direct result of artificial and arbitrary segmentation into distinct generations. While most individuals do not identify with a specific generation, these classifications are often promoted by pseudo-experts seeking recognition. These individuals fuel the fire of stereotypes, obscuring the fact that, intrinsically, generational differences do not exist. Additionally, people tend to notice differences rather than similarities, especially when those differences pose problems. Thus, if we believe in generational disparities, we're likely to find evidence to support them, driven by confirmation bias . It would be wiser to minimize the existence of these differences rather than exacerbate them through coarse categorizations and hasty generalizations.

the generational differences essay

Everyone wants the same thing

Instead of perpetuating a misleading view of generational gaps in hopes of managing them more effectively, it's better to focus on a fundamental understanding of work engagement, rooted in historical and scientific perspectives.

At its core, engagement manifests as a process of psychological identification with work, where individuals find their identity in their activities. It involves how individuals interpret, value, and appropriate their work, find meaning in it, and how their work meets their needs.

Understanding engagement, therefore, requires grasping the universal needs of everyone. From an anthropological standpoint, human beings share three universal needs intrinsic to our nature, society, and evolution. The first is the need for community and social connection, reflecting our social nature. The second need is for personal progression: a desire for advancement and distinction within our hierarchical structures. Finally, the third need is to make sense of the world, to find a cause, and to have an impact. This need is the lens through which we analyze and interpret the world.

These three needs (community, career, and cause) constitute the core values that drive everyone at work. Regardless of their supposed generational affiliation, everyone seeks to identify the what, who, and why of their professional activity.

Emeric Kubiak

Emeric Kubiak is a researcher specializing in personality and Head of Science at AssessFirst.

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the generational differences essay

America's generation gap: Values and more are vastly different for Gen Z

W e know that Gen Z is different compared to other age groups – from their unique relationship with the internet to the impact of the pandemic on their lives and their deep love for Peanuts character Snoopy .

Now that this cohort is getting older ( they were born from the late 1990s through the early 2010s ) and more can vote, their different values are also becoming clearer. A recent Public Opinion Strategies/NBC News poll explored just how different their views are from millennials, Gen X and baby boomers.

“There is profound generational change regarding what values are important,” said the poll. This is showcased by four different “values” related topics respondents were asked about: patriotism, whether America is the best place to live, belief in god or religion, and having children.

Baby boomers (ages 59 to 77) were twice as likely to say each category was very important compared to Gen z (age 18 to 26). Here’s the breakdown:

·       Patriotism – Gen Z 32% baby boom 76%

·       Belief in God/religion – Gen Z 26%, baby boom 65%

·       Having children – Gen Z 23%, baby boom 52% %

·       Agree America is the best place to live – Gen Z 33%, baby boom 66%

In the past two decades years, the percentage of people who never attend religious services more than doubled, going from 14% in 2000 to 35% today. Gen Z is the least likely to attend, with 45% who said they never go. That’s compared to 38% of millennials, 31% of Gen X and 23% of baby boomers.

Last year, Audacy reported that Americans age 12 to 26 don’t have much trust in institutions,  according to poll results released by Gallup and the Walton Family Foundation .

As for their attitudes about America, Gen Z’s lack of belief that it’s the greatest nation to live in has contributed to it falling out of the 20 happiest countries for the first time ever. Back in 1974, just 10% of people said they would live in another country, compared to 34% today. More than half of Gen Z said they would settle in another country.

While the overall U.S. rank was 23, it was at 62 for people ages 18 to 29. People age 60 and older ranked it at No. 10.

This sentiment appears to be linked to the U.S. economy.

According to the poll, “18 to 34-year-olds are economically stressed, with a majority dissatisfied with their own personal financial situation.”

More than half of Gen Z respondents said they are dissatisfied with their financial situation and just 8% said they feel economically optimistic.

Compared to 16% of baby boomers with student loan debt, 43% of Gen Z is carrying this debt, and for 20% it is over $20,000.

Audacy has reported on a range of economic factors putting pressure on Gen Z, from stress related to work emails to mounting credit card debt . In the wake of the student loan debt crisis, more are even looking into career avenues that don’t require a college degree , while others are getting more assertive about asking for a raise .

Policy issues are another area where Gen Z’s value differences are apparent. Compared to baby boomers, they are more likely to support gay marriage, want an end to transgender discrimination, believe the country is not doing enough to deal with climate change, and be in favor of making cuts to the defense budget. Boomers are more likely to support increasing funding for border security as a way to address immigration.

While a good portion of Gen Z felt these 2024 top election issues were important, baby boomers were more likely to believe they are important: Social Security (51% to 83%), dealing with China (40% to 70%), the federal deficit (35% to 62%), crime and safety (60% to 86%), immigration and border security (49% to 73%), abortion (52% to 64%) and the performance of the stock market (22% to 31%).

For Gen Z, top issues were: what you pay in taxes, inflation and the cost of living, what corporations pay in taxes, and healthcare.

With college campus protests making headlines in recent months, the Israel-Hamas war has also emerged as a policy issue many in Gen Z are outspoken about. Per the survey, it is “one of the sharpest policy differences by age we have seen over a 40-year period,” and it is impacting support of Democrat President Joe Biden among the key demographic.

Gen Z voters continue to identify with the Democratic party by at least 20 percentage points. Still, they are also showing less interest in the upcoming 2024 election (expected to be another faceoff with Biden and former President Donald Trump of the GOP).

“Multiple national surveys are showing an unusually low level of interest among the youngest voters in the presidential election,” said the poll. Although election typically lags with younger voters, this election cycle has seen plummeting interest – just 32% of young voters were interested, compared to 56% in 2020.

Values shifts might be shaped by how different generations get their information. Gen Z if far more likely to get news via the internet and social media and is less likely to support banning the social media application TikTok.

America's generation gap: Values and more are vastly different for Gen Z

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How Pew Research Center will report on generations moving forward

Journalists, researchers and the public often look at society through the lens of generation, using terms like Millennial or Gen Z to describe groups of similarly aged people. This approach can help readers see themselves in the data and assess where we are and where we’re headed as a country.

Pew Research Center has been at the forefront of generational research over the years, telling the story of Millennials as they came of age politically and as they moved more firmly into adult life . In recent years, we’ve also been eager to learn about Gen Z as the leading edge of this generation moves into adulthood.

But generational research has become a crowded arena. The field has been flooded with content that’s often sold as research but is more like clickbait or marketing mythology. There’s also been a growing chorus of criticism about generational research and generational labels in particular.

Recently, as we were preparing to embark on a major research project related to Gen Z, we decided to take a step back and consider how we can study generations in a way that aligns with our values of accuracy, rigor and providing a foundation of facts that enriches the public dialogue.

A typical generation spans 15 to 18 years. As many critics of generational research point out, there is great diversity of thought, experience and behavior within generations.

We set out on a yearlong process of assessing the landscape of generational research. We spoke with experts from outside Pew Research Center, including those who have been publicly critical of our generational analysis, to get their take on the pros and cons of this type of work. We invested in methodological testing to determine whether we could compare findings from our earlier telephone surveys to the online ones we’re conducting now. And we experimented with higher-level statistical analyses that would allow us to isolate the effect of generation.

What emerged from this process was a set of clear guidelines that will help frame our approach going forward. Many of these are principles we’ve always adhered to , but others will require us to change the way we’ve been doing things in recent years.

Here’s a short overview of how we’ll approach generational research in the future:

We’ll only do generational analysis when we have historical data that allows us to compare generations at similar stages of life. When comparing generations, it’s crucial to control for age. In other words, researchers need to look at each generation or age cohort at a similar point in the life cycle. (“Age cohort” is a fancy way of referring to a group of people who were born around the same time.)

When doing this kind of research, the question isn’t whether young adults today are different from middle-aged or older adults today. The question is whether young adults today are different from young adults at some specific point in the past.

To answer this question, it’s necessary to have data that’s been collected over a considerable amount of time – think decades. Standard surveys don’t allow for this type of analysis. We can look at differences across age groups, but we can’t compare age groups over time.

Another complication is that the surveys we conducted 20 or 30 years ago aren’t usually comparable enough to the surveys we’re doing today. Our earlier surveys were done over the phone, and we’ve since transitioned to our nationally representative online survey panel , the American Trends Panel . Our internal testing showed that on many topics, respondents answer questions differently depending on the way they’re being interviewed. So we can’t use most of our surveys from the late 1980s and early 2000s to compare Gen Z with Millennials and Gen Xers at a similar stage of life.

This means that most generational analysis we do will use datasets that have employed similar methodologies over a long period of time, such as surveys from the U.S. Census Bureau. A good example is our 2020 report on Millennial families , which used census data going back to the late 1960s. The report showed that Millennials are marrying and forming families at a much different pace than the generations that came before them.

Even when we have historical data, we will attempt to control for other factors beyond age in making generational comparisons. If we accept that there are real differences across generations, we’re basically saying that people who were born around the same time share certain attitudes or beliefs – and that their views have been influenced by external forces that uniquely shaped them during their formative years. Those forces may have been social changes, economic circumstances, technological advances or political movements.

When we see that younger adults have different views than their older counterparts, it may be driven by their demographic traits rather than the fact that they belong to a particular generation.

The tricky part is isolating those forces from events or circumstances that have affected all age groups, not just one generation. These are often called “period effects.” An example of a period effect is the Watergate scandal, which drove down trust in government among all age groups. Differences in trust across age groups in the wake of Watergate shouldn’t be attributed to the outsize impact that event had on one age group or another, because the change occurred across the board.

Changing demographics also may play a role in patterns that might at first seem like generational differences. We know that the United States has become more racially and ethnically diverse in recent decades, and that race and ethnicity are linked with certain key social and political views. When we see that younger adults have different views than their older counterparts, it may be driven by their demographic traits rather than the fact that they belong to a particular generation.

Controlling for these factors can involve complicated statistical analysis that helps determine whether the differences we see across age groups are indeed due to generation or not. This additional step adds rigor to the process. Unfortunately, it’s often absent from current discussions about Gen Z, Millennials and other generations.

When we can’t do generational analysis, we still see value in looking at differences by age and will do so where it makes sense. Age is one of the most common predictors of differences in attitudes and behaviors. And even if age gaps aren’t rooted in generational differences, they can still be illuminating. They help us understand how people across the age spectrum are responding to key trends, technological breakthroughs and historical events.

Each stage of life comes with a unique set of experiences. Young adults are often at the leading edge of changing attitudes on emerging social trends. Take views on same-sex marriage , for example, or attitudes about gender identity .

Many middle-aged adults, in turn, face the challenge of raising children while also providing care and support to their aging parents. And older adults have their own obstacles and opportunities. All of these stories – rooted in the life cycle, not in generations – are important and compelling, and we can tell them by analyzing our surveys at any given point in time.

When we do have the data to study groups of similarly aged people over time, we won’t always default to using the standard generational definitions and labels. While generational labels are simple and catchy, there are other ways to analyze age cohorts. For example, some observers have suggested grouping people by the decade in which they were born. This would create narrower cohorts in which the members may share more in common. People could also be grouped relative to their age during key historical events (such as the Great Recession or the COVID-19 pandemic) or technological innovations (like the invention of the iPhone).

By choosing not to use the standard generational labels when they’re not appropriate, we can avoid reinforcing harmful stereotypes or oversimplifying people’s complex lived experiences.

Existing generational definitions also may be too broad and arbitrary to capture differences that exist among narrower cohorts. A typical generation spans 15 to 18 years. As many critics of generational research point out, there is great diversity of thought, experience and behavior within generations. The key is to pick a lens that’s most appropriate for the research question that’s being studied. If we’re looking at political views and how they’ve shifted over time, for example, we might group people together according to the first presidential election in which they were eligible to vote.

With these considerations in mind, our audiences should not expect to see a lot of new research coming out of Pew Research Center that uses the generational lens. We’ll only talk about generations when it adds value, advances important national debates and highlights meaningful societal trends.

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Job Skills

The modern workplace is a vibrant tapestry woven from multiple generations, each bringing unique perspectives, skills, and expectations. As HR professionals, business owners, and even Gen Z job seekers, understanding how to navigate these generational differences is crucial to building a harmonious and productive work environment. This blog post will explore how employers can adapt their workplace culture to attract and retain Gen Z employees while accommodating the needs and values of Gen X and Millennials.

Flexibility and Work-Life Balance

Gen Z highly values flexibility and work-life balance. A significant percentage of Gen Z workers prefer remote or hybrid working environments. This generation seeks the freedom to manage their schedules while maintaining a healthy separation between work and personal life.


Millennials also value flexibility but are more likely to explore various career paths in search of fulfilling and purpose-driven careers. They appreciate employers who offer flexible working arrangements, allowing them to balance their professional and personal ambitions.

Gen X tends to appreciate job stability and structured work environments. However, some within this generation also seek flexibility, especially as they manage responsibilities related to family and personal interests. Providing flexible work options can help retain Gen X employees who value both stability and adaptability in their roles.

Technological Integration

As digital natives, Gen Z expects seamless technological integration in the workplace. They are accustomed to using advanced tech and prefer employers who utilize modern tools and platforms. Ensuring the workplace is equipped with up-to-date technology is essential for engaging and retaining Gen Z employees.

Millennials are tech-savvy and comfortable with digital tools, having grown up during the transition from analog to digital. They appreciate workplaces that leverage technology for efficiency and innovation, although they may not demand it as strongly as Gen Z.

Gen X is generally proficient with technology but may not adopt new technologies as quickly as younger generations. Providing training and support for new tools can help bridge this gap and ensure that all employees are equipped to work efficiently in a technologically advanced environment.

Mission and Values Alignment

Gen Z seeks employers with strong, authentic commitments to social causes and inclusivity. They want to work for organizations that reflect their personal values and are transparent about their mission and impact. This generation is particularly passionate about social justice, environmental sustainability, and diversity.

Millennials also value purpose-driven companies but might prioritize career advancement opportunities alongside mission alignment. They appreciate employers who demonstrate a genuine commitment to social responsibility and provide opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Gen X focuses on companies that offer stability and growth opportunities, though they increasingly value corporate responsibility. This generation appreciates employers who balance business success with ethical practices and provide a stable environment for career progression.

Feedback and Development Opportunities

Gen Z craves regular, constructive feedback and clear expectations from management. They view feedback as a vital part of their professional development and expect continuous learning opportunities. Implementing frequent performance reviews and offering mentorship programs can significantly enhance their engagement and growth.

Millennials appreciate mentorship and collaborative work environments where they can grow and develop. They value regular feedback but also seek to contribute meaningfully to team projects and organizational goals.

Gen X prefers autonomy and may not require as frequent feedback, valuing experience-based learning instead. This generation appreciates when their experience and expertise are respected and when they are given the freedom to perform their roles without micromanagement.

Diversity and Inclusion

Gen Z expects genuine diversity and inclusion initiatives from their employers. They want to see diverse leadership and inclusive policies that ensure equal opportunities for all employees. Creating an environment that celebrates diversity and promotes inclusivity is crucial for attracting and retaining Gen Z talent.

Millennials support diversity and inclusion but may not be as vocal or demanding about it as Gen Z. They appreciate workplaces that foster a sense of belonging and respect for all individuals, regardless of background.

Gen X supports diversity, often focusing on equal opportunities and fair treatment in the workplace. This generation values meritocracy and appreciates when organizations take concrete steps to address disparities and promote diversity.

Career Development and Mobility

Gen Z wants clear pathways for career development and mobility within the organization. They are less likely to stay in one position for long without growth opportunities and expect employers to provide training and advancement prospects.

Millennials seek career progression but may switch jobs frequently to find the right fit. They value employers who offer diverse career paths and opportunities for continuous learning and development.

Gen X is more likely to stay in a position longer if it offers stability and incremental career growth. They appreciate clear career trajectories and opportunities for professional advancement within the organization.

Corporate Culture and Environment

Gen Z thrives in a transparent, open, and collaborative work culture. They value a positive and healthy work environment where their contributions are recognized, and they feel connected to their peers and the organization’s mission.

Millennials value collaboration and teamwork, often seeking a fun and engaging workplace culture. They appreciate environments that encourage innovation, creativity, and social interaction.

Gen X values professionalism and effective management but also appreciates a balanced and respectful work culture. They prefer workplaces that recognize hard work and provide a supportive environment for personal and professional growth.

Understanding and navigating generational differences in today’s workforce is essential for creating a cohesive and productive work environment. By recognizing the unique values and expectations of Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X, employers can adapt their workplace culture to attract and retain top talent from each generation.

Implementing strategies that promote flexibility, technological integration, mission alignment, feedback, diversity, career development, and a positive corporate culture will help build a workplace that meets the needs of all employees. Ultimately, fostering a harmonious multi-generational workforce will drive organizational success and create a thriving, inclusive work environment.

By embracing these generational differences and making meaningful adjustments to workplace culture, employers can ensure they remain competitive and appealing to the diverse talent entering the workforce. The future of work depends on our ability to adapt, understand, and integrate the strengths of every generation, creating a dynamic and innovative workplace for all.

the generational differences essay


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    Here, we explore generational differences across all these dimensions of climate engagement, using data from three cross-sectional nationally-representative surveys conducted in 2020, 2021 and ...

  21. Generation Gap Essay

    Generation Gap is a term given to the gap or age difference between two sets of people; the young people and their elders, especially between children and their parents. Everything is influenced by the change of time- the age, the culture, mannerism, and morality. This change affects everyone.

  22. Gen Z's pessimism fueled by depression, social media use: Expert

    The generational differences in world views between Gen Z and older generations are being driven by higher rates of depression and excessive social media use among today's youth, according to an ...

  23. The Theme of Generational Gap in an Inspector's Calls: [Essay Example

    By creating characters like Sheila and Eric with a large age gap between Mr. and Mrs. Birling in the play An Inspector Calls, tension is created through their differences clashing. This essay analyzes how J.B. Priestley uses the tension of older vs younger generation in An Inspector Calls to communicate the theme that one must take into ...

  24. Deciphering Generation Names, Birth Years and Stereotypes

    Defining Generation Names and Dates. The Greatest Generation (GI Generation): Born 1901 to 1927. The Silent Generation: Born 1928 to 1945. Baby Boomer Generation: Born 1946 to 1964. Generation X: Born 1965 to 1980. Millennial Generation: Born 1981 to 1996. Generation Z or iGen: Born 1997 to 2012. Generation Alpha: Born Between 2013 to 2025.

  25. Generational Differences at Work Are Marketing Hype

    In short, generational gaps are more of a myth than a substantiated theory. Studies and meta-analyses show nearly non-existent differences between generations in (1) work attitudes, (2 ...

  26. Generational Differences > Air University (AU) > Article Display

    Generational Differences. Published May 24, 2024. By JSOU. Distinct characteristics, values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors are often associated with individuals from different generations. These differences arise from societal, cultural, technological, and economic factors that shape people's experiences as they grow and develop.

  27. America's generation gap: Values and more are vastly different ...

    Here's the breakdown: · Patriotism - Gen Z 32% baby boom 76%. · Belief in God/religion - Gen Z 26%, baby boom 65%. · Having children - Gen Z 23%, baby boom 52% %. In the past two ...

  28. How Pew Research Center will report on generations moving forward

    When we can't do generational analysis, we still see value in looking at differences by age and will do so where it makes sense. Age is one of the most common predictors of differences in attitudes and behaviors. And even if age gaps aren't rooted in generational differences, they can still be illuminating.

  29. Getting Students to Show Up: Generational Differences in the Effect of

    Getting Students to Show Up: Generational Differences in the Effect of Teachers on Black and White Student Absences by Nhu Nguyen, Ben Ost and Javaeria A. Qureshi. Published in volume 114, pages 517-22 of AEA Papers and Proceedings, May 2024, Abstract: We provide the first evidence on the effect of...

  30. Navigating Generational Differences in Today's Workforce

    By embracing these generational differences and making meaningful adjustments to workplace culture, employers can ensure they remain competitive and appealing to the diverse talent entering the workforce. The future of work depends on our ability to adapt, understand, and integrate the strengths of every generation, creating a dynamic and ...